Harding left the Wild on Dec. 31 to deal with symptoms related to his multiple sclerosis. Before his illness forced him from the lineup, Harding was enjoying a breakout season, going 18-7-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. After missing several weeks, Harding skated with the Wild during the Stanley Cup Playoffs but never made it back into the lineup before Minnesota was eliminated in the Western Conference Second Round.
"I think his battles are well chronicled and well known. I think he's feeling well at this point in time," Fletcher said. "The goal for him is, much like last summer, to build up and get to a point where he'll be able to come into training camp and play well. There's been nothing that I've heard of to lead me to not believe that to be the case."
Veteran Niklas Backstrom and rookie Darcy Kuemper, each of whom was the Wild's No. 1 goalie before being forced from the lineup by an injury, also will be back in time for training camp, Fletcher said. The GM was especially encouraged by Backstrom, Minnesota's all-time wins leader who reclaimed the job when Harding was sidelined but had his season end Jan. 30 when he sustained an abdominal injury that eventually required surgery.
"His rehab has gone really well. He's feeling better now than he did at any point last season, including training camp," Fletcher said of Backstrom. "We expect he'll be able to go full out, full pads by late July or early August, leaving him plenty of time to be ready for training camp. He's in a really good spot right now."
Ilya Bryzgalov, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers prior to the NHL Trade Deadline and became the starter late in the regular season and into the playoffs after Kuemper sustained a concussion, becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 and is not expected back.