2010 NHL Free Agency: Minnesota brings back backup goalie Josh Harding for one year

joshharding2.jpgApparently, the Minnesota Wild saw my post* about the players who might be worth an offer sheet this summer. The team announced that they signed Josh Harding to a one-year contract, although financial terms have not been disclosed by the team.

Update: Michael Russo reports that the Wild signed Harding to a one-year, $1.2 million deal. That’s a decent amount of coin for a backup, but I think it’s still a solid move for Minnesota.

* – I’m kidding.

Harding is generally considered one of the best backups in the NHL, although his contract year 09-10 campaign wasn’t too spectacular (9-12-0 record, 90.5 save percentage and 3.05 GAA). That’s probably because his career numbers are pretty stout for a backup; he has a 28-39-4 record but managed an above average 91.5 career save percentage and 2.66 GAA.

Now, I imagine that – aside from being a restricted free agent – the reason that he didn’t get much attention is because he’s never had a big workload. His career high for games played was 29 in 07-08 (his 25 starts in 09-10 were his second highest), not even half of a regular season. There may also be the perception that playing for the Wild might inflate his numbers.

Without seeing the salary details, I think this is a great move for Minnesota and a tough one for Harding. Then again, if the goalie market is better next year, it could be a nice deal for both parties. Still, this is the summer where goalie contracts shriveled up and it (appears) that Harding holds to that pattern.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?