Before the season started, I wrote in one of my first blog posts on whether or not Niklas Backstrom has any kind of a future with the Minnesota Wild. (See the post here.)
Well, now that same question can be asked about Josh Harding.
During his career with the Minnesota Wild, he has missed significant time. He missed the entire 2010-11 season due to a torn ACL and MCL in one of his knees suffered during a pre-season game against the St. Louis Blues. In September 2012, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. (Harding is the first and only known professional athlete to be playing with the autoimmune disorder that attacks the central nervous system). Harding has missed significant time the past two seasons due to issues related to his treatment. Harding hasn’t played a game in a Wild sweater since December 31, 2013.
In 151 career games with the Wild, he has a 60-59-11 record with a career 2.45 GAA and .918 SV%.
Right before the start of training camp back in September, it was announced that Harding broke his foot in a “non-hockey related incident.” As a result of that injury, Harding ended up being suspended. (Harding is not the first Wild player to be suspended over a non-hockey related injury. James Sheppard was suspended for the 2010-11 season after breaking his knee cap in an ATV accident in Colorado.)
On November 17, Harding was activated off of injured reserve and placed on waivers. He ended up clearing waivers and being sent down to the Iowa Wild. Fans had hoped there would be a possibility that Harding would eventually be called up to the Minnesota Wild—depending on the health/play of goaltenders Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper.
Fast-forward to November 29, Harding made his second start for the Iowa Wild in their game at Charlotte and played the first two periods. He didn’t come out for the third period, leading to speculation to what happened. Last week, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune wrote that Harding ended up in the hospital due to dehydration related to his MS. According to Russo, “Harding is expected to be sidelined indefinitely and won’t play again until this is figured out.” (startribune.com Dec. 9, 2014). How long that might be? Nobody knows at this point. I think the fans would like to see him play with the Wild this season. However, that is looking like a long shot.
At this point, what is Harding’s future with the Minnesota Wild? He is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The big thing going against Harding right now is his Multiple Sclerosis and he has missed a lot of time due to issues with his illness. Time will only tell what will happen with Harding. Is there a team that is willing to take a chance on him? Maybe. Right now, I think Chuck Fletcher may have to make the tough decision and let Harding go via free agency at the end of this season.
What are your thoughts??