Josh Harding suspended, Darcy Kuemper re-signed by Wild

Darcy Kuemper has a new deal with the Wild after Josh Harding got suspended. (USATSI)
Darcy Kuemper has a new deal with the Wild after Josh Harding got suspended. (USATSI)

Thursday night brought a bit of clarity to the Minnesota Wild’s murky goaltending situation, but there was good news and bad news. The good news is that the Wild came to an agreement on a new two-year deal with restricted free agent goaltender Darcy Kuemper . The bad news, according to multiple reports, is that the Wild suspended injured goaltender Josh Harding due to the fact that his fractured foot is a non-hockey-related injury.

Kuemper’s deal is his desired one-way contract worth $2.5 million over the two years of the contract. The Wild had been pushing for Harding to take a two-way deal so they could stash him in the minor leagues without having to pay him an NHL salary while Harding and Niklas Backstrom took the bulk of the NHL games for the club.

Harding’s injury pretty much took Kuemper from a no-leverage situation to a position of strength in his negotiation really quickly.

The Wild announced Harding would be out indefinitely with a fractured foot on Wednesday, however general manager Chuck Fletcher was still gathering the facts on how he sustained the fracture in his right foot.

Though the Wild have not divulged the details, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Harding broke his foot after kicking a wall following an altercation with a teammate Monday. He is expected to miss at least two to three months according to Russo.

By suspending Harding, the Wild will not have to pay a prorated portion of the $2.1 million he is owed this season and his contract will not count against the salary cap for the duration of the suspension.

This must add insult to injury for Harding even though the few details available about his injury won’t bring him much sympathy. Harding was supposed to start his comeback after he missed the entire second half of last season due to complications from multiple sclerosis. He had been working out with the team and was said to be ready to start the year completely healthy.

This injury could have a significant impact on the role Harding plays going forward as he missed so much time last season and will miss a significant portion of the start of this year. It’s extremely unfortunate.

In 29 appearances last season, Harding had an 18-7-3 record and led the league with a .933 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average. He would have likely entered the season as the team’s No. 1 goalie.

Meanwhile, getting Kuemper back into the mix before the team hits the ice is going to be extremely important. There’s a chance the 24-year-old could even wrest away starting duties from Niklas Backstrom while Harding recovers.

Kuemper was thrust into action in 26 games last season. He went 12-8-4 with a .915 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average. He also ended up starting some playoff games, making six total appearances and posting a 3-1 record with a .913 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average before getting injured.

The Wild also brought veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov into camp on a professional tryout.

The competition between longtime veteran Backstrom and Kuemper could make for interesting preseason watching, while having Bryzgalov in the mix adds another interesting twist.

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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