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Josh Harding puts himself on potential starter radar

Nov 6, 2011, 9:30 AM EDT

Josh Harding AP

After losing his 2010-11 season to an unfortunate injury, Josh Harding is enjoying one of the best spans of his career. The quality backup is on a four-game winning streak in which he’s allowed just three goals, including two wins against the Detroit Red Wings and one against the Vancouver Canucks.

In other words, Harding is nailing what is essentially a high-profile audition for the summer of 2012, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He’s been a well-respected backup for quite some time, but his fantastic start to the 2011-12 season should add him to a crowded field of backups who could be starters in the future.

Here’s a quick list of young goalies who might not be backups for very long:

Not in a contract year:

Sergei Bobrovsky
Michal Neuvirth
Jonathan Bernier

Contract year (restricted):

Tuukka Rask
Anders Lindback
Devan Dubnyk
Cory Schneider
Ondrej Pavelec (note: Pavelec is a starter, but if he has a bad season, many teams could look at him as a backup or a 1a/1b type)

Contract year (unrestricted):

Dan Ellis

Assessing Harding’s potential competition

It would be shocking to see Bobrovsky or Neuvirth get traded and The Kings would be wrong to trust Bernier at this point. Rask and Schneider are likely the most intriguing RFAs as far as offer sheets/etc. are concerned while Pavelec is an intriguing wild card.

A lot of teams won’t want to deal with the headaches of offer sheets, sign-and-trades and other RFA-related hassles, though, so Harding could very well assert himself as a prime candidate for a job opening – whether it be in Columbus, Tampa Bay or any number of other places. As far as UFAs go, it’s basically Harding vs. career backups such as Chris Mason.

Harding still has a long way to go to earn a shot at a top job

Naturally, there’s still a long way to go and five impressive games played won’t be enough to sway most (if not all) GMs. At the same time, it’s heartening that Harding is making such a showcase for his value after the devastating injury that derailed his 2010-11 season.

  1. TJ - Nov 6, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    What, no Enroth?

    • danphipps01 - Nov 6, 2011 at 9:12 PM

      Good point. If Bobrovsky and Bernier are listed, he should be too.

  2. gbiscottagecheesefatties - Nov 6, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    No way Harding leaves unless the Wild get an offer they can’t refuse. Harding is of too much value to Minny as they should be able to sign him for anywhere around 3yr. / 9 million. The real trade value to Minny would be getting rid of Backstrom and his contract which ends in 2 years I believe. Some team is willing to take on Backs’s 6million to sure up their pipes. Unless Columbus is willing to give us a lottery pick and the chance of Nail, Forsberg, Grigorenko, (Murray or Dumba – not as wanted per Wild, need goals on offense), doesn’t make sense to move him. Looking at the value he could bring in seeing as what Wash. got from Colorado, might have to guarantee the Wild a top 5 pick. I can’t imagine either goalie getting traded, just knowing the market during the season for goalies, tough to move…. fingers are crossed tho

  3. greatminnesotasportsmind - Nov 6, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    What a great start for Harding. It has been a tough year for him. Snapping the ACL in knee last pre season. Former teammates Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra passing away over the summer. His best friend Rick Rypien passes away over the summer.

    As a Wild fan, I hope they find a way to keep this kid as our #1 goalie and trade the over priced Niklas Backstrom and his 6 million a year salary for a bag of used pucks and a draft pick.

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