Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Harding re-signed by Wild to three-year, $5.7 million deal

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 19, 2012 - 1:48 PM

UPDATED

Josh Harding wanted to stay, and now he is.

One day after telling the Star Tribune he was willing to stay with the Wild if he was able to agree to a multi-year deal, Harding has signed a three-year, $5.7 million contract to remain in Minnesota. That's a $1.9 million cap hit, takes Harding two years past the expiration of Niklas Backstrom's contract and affords more time for young goalies Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson to develop.

He will make $1.5 million next season and $2.1 million in each of the next two, sources say.

Harding was very excited and said July 1 was a risk with so few teams looking for a No. 1. Just look at Tomas Vokoun last year, who played hard ball with Colorado and wound up having to sign a one-year, $1.5 million deal with Washington.

"I didn’t want to be in a different spot when all the chairs are gone and the music stops," Harding said.

And if that were the case, he said it made no sense for him to leave here to be a No. 2 elsewhere.

This also gives the Wild lots of eventual options. As I've written over and over again, there's only one cage. Eventually, whether it's soon or more likely after they develop some more, you can bet the Wild will use a goaltender or two as assets and try to parlay them into established players and/or high draft picks in trades.

I've gotten a lot of questions asking if this means Backstrom is trade bait. I'm working to find out the exact details of his no-trade clause again to see if there's a draft window, but regardless, he's 34 and has one year left at $6 million, so not sure there's a big market now. Plus, I think the Wild would prefer Backstrom to be the No. 1 next year rather than just handing the job to Harding.

While I've yet to get details of Backstrom's no trade, I am being told by team sources they are not looking to trade Backstrom.

Harding turned 28 yesterday, returned last season from reconstructive knee surgery and gives the Wild a quality goalie to compete with Backstrom for the cage. Backstrom, 34, has suffered from durability issues the past few years.

Harding, too, in order to prove he can be a No. 1, needs to also overcome durability and consistency issues and says, "I think I've got a lot better in me."

Harding said he never could have imagined this day after season-ending hip surgery in 2009-10 and missing all of 2010-11 with a knee injury suffered in his preseason debut at St. Louis.

Harding's signing makes the goalie market a lot thinner this summer, so it'll be interesting to see how teams in need of a goalie reacts.

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