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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#mnwild in stalemate with goalie Anton Khudobin; Harding re-signs; Wild signs Broda

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 14, 2010 - 4:00 PM

Updated: Wild goalie Josh Harding signs a one-year, $1.2 million contract. This puts the Wild $55,402,693 against the $59.4 million cap with 21 players. The maximum roster is 23. So barring trades, this gives the Wild a little less than $4 million for additions or youngsters like Casey Wellman, Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella, Colton Gillies or whoever to make the team. And remember, you can bet the Wild wants to give itself some bubble room for injury promotions or in-season acquisitions, so no way it spends to the cap ceiling.

Kent Youngblood will update this blog soon with the goings-on from today's development camp. The players practiced today and are now at a local gym doing MMA/UFC stuff. Should be fun.

With so much talk this summer about the future of No. 2 goalie Josh Harding, it's been easy to ignore that there's actually a current contract stalemate with No. 3 goaltender Anton Khudobin.

Khudobin, a restricted free agent, has options in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, his agent Gary Greenstin told me this afternoon, and he's been warning the Wild the past several weeks that Khudobin is prepared to choose one of those options.

"He played five periods with the Minnesota Wild last year, and he played excellent. He put Houston one game from the AHL Finals two years ago," said Greenstin. "He's very close to the NHL. He's very talented, very competitive. I believe he's able to be in the system (in the NHL) right away, but sometimes it's not in our hands. It depends on the management. We have a choice. I hope they make the right decision."

Khudobin, 24, was drafted 206th overall in 2004. After a solid East Coast career, he filled in for injured Barry Brust and Nolan Schaefer two years ago and helped carry Houston to the AHL Western Finals. Last year in place of injured Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding, Khudobin went 2-0 with a .979 save percentage and 0.86 goals against average with the Wild. He went 14-19-4 in Houston with a 2.43 GAA.

His first NHL win was in that game vs. Edmonton where Harding dove across the crease, robbed J-F Jacques and never got up. He then started the next game vs. Philly, making 38 stops.

But Khudobin wants a one-way contract, and that's something the Wild's not about to give with Harding still in the fold. Khudobin is currently weighing a two-way contract vs. a KHL contract, which is undoubtedly more lucrative. 

The Wild's not about to change its negotiation because of the KHL threat, so now it's up to Khudobin. His qualifying offer expires Thursday, so a decision one way or the other should be around the corner.

"His priority is the Minnesota Wild," Greenstin said. "He's very loyal to Minnesota. He likes the organization a lot and he's able to help. But he needs an opportunity to play."

The Wild doesn't know what Khudobin's going to do, but if he decides to leave for the KHL, the Wild will almost certainly sign a free-agent goalie to play alongside prospect Matt Hackett next season in Houston.

As for Harding, he's getting close to accepting a one-year deal. I'm told he waited until the last minute of QO expiration in case he was traded, which is smart. In other words, if he was traded, he could potentially sign a longer-term deal with his new team as opposed to a one-year deal.

I think the Wild's had a few trade options, but they're just not going to give him away. In other words, his value to them playing next season is a better option than what's been offered, and the Wild could possibly get more value for Harding during an in-season trade as opposed to what's been offered this offseason. Of course, the Wild doesn't want to prevent Harding from a better opportunity either.

I'd think though at this late juncture there's a better chance of Harding being on the Wild to start next season than being elsewhere. We'll see. But I'd think Harding re-ups today or tomorrow.

OH, forgot to mention, the Wild signed 20-year-old free-agent center Joel Broda to a 3-year entry-level deal today. He'll be in Houston this next season. He was originally a Washington draft pick. The Caps didn't sign him by June 1 deadline, and he wasn't re-drafted in LA. He was invited to the Wild's development camp. He was a solid Western Hockey League scorer (39 goals, 73 points with the Calgary Hitmen last year) with a good shot and physical game. Fire hydrant type. Skating needs to improve, but this is another example of the Wild trying to build its prospect base on the fly in unorthodox ways. Big improvement over the last year, apparently.

 

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