On the eve of training camp, an exasperated Mike Yeo voiced his frustration over a dizzying goaltending merry-go-round that looks as if it's going to circle for yet another season.
Josh Harding, arguably the Wild's No.1 goaltender heading into Thursday's training camp, broke his right foot while kicking a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate and is expected to miss at least two or three months. And unsigned goalie Darcy Kuem- per was embroiled in a contract dispute that if not rectified Thursday means he will at a minimum be a late arriver to camp and thus put him behind the 8-ball.
"All I can tell you is my full attention is on that guy right there," Yeo said, pointing to veteran Niklas Backstrom on the ice during Wednesday's informal practice. "He's the one who is here, he's the one who put in the work."
With Harding sidelined and Kuemper no closer to signing Wednesday night than he was Wednesday morning, the Wild called upon a familiar face. Ilya Bryzgalov, acquired by Minnesota last season from Edmonton and still unsigned, agreed to a pro tryout and is expected to arrive in St. Paul late Thursday.
He went 7-1-3 in 12 regular-season games last season with a 2.11 goals-against average. In the playoffs, he was 3-6 with a 2.63 GAA.
"My staff, we've been making plans on who's practicing, what practices we're going to have, who's playing in the exhibition games, and this was under the assumption we would have Kuemps and Hards, and obviously things have changed dramatically," Yeo said. "I put on the cool face last year pretending we weren't frustrated about [our goaltending issues], but we're not even Day One into camp and we're already talking about it."
Harding's injury won't require surgery, but he is out indefinitely. Yeo and an equally frustrated General Manager Chuck Fletcher were to meet with Harding on Wednesday to try to ascertain how he got hurt. Details are murky, but it's clear he got into some kind of altercation with a teammate Sunday.
"We just have to figure out what happened," Fletcher said Wednesday morning. "But I'm not sure I want to get into a whole public exposé of what happened."
Harding is in the final year of a contract that pays him $2.1 million. In 2010, Fletcher suspended forward James Sheppard for an off-ice ATV accident days before camp that resulted in season-ruining knee surgery.
Asked if the Wild conceivably could do the same thing with Harding, Fletcher said: "I don't want to get into hypotheticals. I just want to hear what happened and figure it out.
"… The bottom line is right now he's not available to us, and that diminishes our depth at that position and it hurts our team. However it happened, it's important to get the answers, but at the end of the day, it's not going to change the situation."
As of late Wednesday, other than a couple of text messages, there were no phone conversations between Fletcher and Kuem- per's agent, Jeff Helperl. Yeo said it's a shame because there's an "unbelievable opportunity" for Kuemper to come to camp and earn a full-time NHL job.
"The [Harding] situation itself doesn't change the dynamic," Fletcher said. "You want to get it done because [Kuemper's] a good, young goalie, he's somebody we think has potential to be a good player, but any time you get into a situation where you're missing camp, it's just not healthy.
"You always want to get [the contract] done, but you've got to do what's right. We'll just keep working through it, and hopefully get it done. … The longer it goes, the more difficult it is for any goaltender to be on top of his game."