Josh Harding’s tumultuous campaign continued on Monday as the Wild activated him from injured reserve, then placed him on waivers.
Harding, the ’13 Masterton winner for playing while dealing with the effects of multiple sclerosis, has been out since the preseason with a broken ankle, reportedly suffered following an altercation with a teammate in which he kicked a wall. The incident resulted in Minnesota suspending Harding and, per reports, drew the ire of head coach Mike Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher.
When healthy, Harding is a very talented goalie. He was an early Vezina candidate last year, posting an 18-7-2 record with a .933 save percentage and 1.65 GAA through 29 games, emerging as one of Minnesota’s most valuable players in the opening part of the campaign.
Harding missed the second half of last year with MS complications, however, and didn’t participate in any of the Wild’s second-round playoff run. The 30-year-old was then thought to be in the running for Minnesota’s starting job this season — In August, Fletcher said “everything’s a go” with Harding — but quickly fell out of favor following the broken ankle.
Harding’s in the last of a three-year, $5.7 million deal with an $1.9M average annual cap hit. Should he clear waivers and be placed in the minors, the Wild would receive $925,000 in cap relief.
UPDATE: More, from the Star-Tribune…
Keeping three goalies on a 23-man roster wasn’t an option, [Wild assistant GM Brent] Flahr said.
Frankly, that wasn’t a healthy scenario either, in my opinion. The last thing the Wild needs is Darcy Kuemper looking over his shoulder at Harding, who isn’t close to returning. When Harding’s game is ready, the Wild will assess its goalie situation then, so this is not necessarily the end of the line for Harding in Minnesota.
I cannot imagine Harding is claimed off waivers. Not only is his health an uncertainty and not only hasn’t he played in almost 11 months, the other 29 teams don’t have the experience of how to deal with his MS.
I obviously could be wrong, but Harding’s treatment and the protocols in place behind the scenes is something the Wild has a firm grasp of but other teams don’t. In other words, this is not a normal circumstance where a team just simply picks up an injured player. There needs to be a little expertise on how to deal with him, but we’ll see.