Josh Harding is less than two weeks from potential unrestricted free agency, but the Wild goalie said Monday he would be willing to stay in Minnesota if he and the team can agree on a multiyear deal before July 1.
"I'm hoping we can get something worked out here soon," said Harding, who turned 28 on Monday. "I'd love to be back here. It's no secret I like Minnesota and I like being here. My goal since I was drafted [10 years ago] was to be a No. 1 goalie in Minnesota. I want to be a No. 1 goalie and if there's a place and we can work something out, I'd love to stay."
With Niklas Backstrom turning 35 next season and having only one year left on his contract, a multiyear deal would give Harding an opportunity to eventually achieve his goal of becoming the Wild's No. 1.
"A one-year deal right now doesn't make really much sense for us," Harding said, referring to the belief he can secure a multiyear deal in free agency. "That's what we're having talks with [GM Chuck Fletcher] about, and we'll make the best decision for both of us. But it's a business, too, and I want to be a No. 1."
Fletcher expected to hear from Harding's agent, Craig Oster, Monday and then "go from there. We're still hopeful we can get something done with him."
Oster said "there have been good discussions, so we'll see if we can make this work to satisfy everybody."
Harding returned last season after missing all of 2010-11 because of a torn ACL and MCL and went 13-12-4 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. If he moves on, the Wild will be in the market for a backup.
Because he is unsigned and doesn't want to risk injury, Harding will not play in Wednesday's NHL Charity Game at Ridder Arena, although he likely will attend to sign autographs in support of Defending the Blue Line.
"I've seen freaky stuff happen, so I want to err on the side of caution," Harding said.
The Wild announced its seven-game exhibition schedule for next season.
It opens Sept. 25 in Boise, Idaho, against the Dallas Stars before playing host to the Stars on Sept. 26 at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild also will play games against the Blues (Sept. 27 at home, Sept. 29 in St. Louis) and Jets (Oct. 2 at home, Oct. 4 in Winnipeg).
It closes the preseason Oct. 6 in Calgary before likely heading to Banff, Alberta, for a few days leading up to the regular-season opener Oct. 13 at home.