Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding is out indefinitely with a fractured right foot, the team announced Wednesday, further complicating a muddled situation at the position.
Harding was injured Sunday and it occurred away from the ice, the Wild said. Harding's injury, combined with the lack of a signed contract for restricted free agent Darcy Kuemper, leaves the team without its top two goaltenders when training camp begins Thursday.
Goalie - MIN
GAA: 1.65 | SVP: .933
"I'm frustrated and I'm disappointed," coach Mike Yeo
told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I'm disappointed for our guys that we're here before Day One of camp, and we've got a lot of guys that put in a lot of work, and this is what we're sitting around talking about. I'd rather us talk about the excitement around our team and the work that these guys put in."
The Wild were expected to have a crowded situation in net at the start of the 2014-15 season, but now they could be short. Niklas Backstrom is the only one of the three veteran goaltenders who will be available, along with John Curry, who has played six NHL games. On Wednesday, the Wild invited Ilya Bryzgalov to camp on a pro tryout. Minnesota traded for Bryzgalov late last season when Harding and Backstrom were injured.
The Wild said Bryzgalov is expected to be on the ice when camp opens Friday.
"You make plans over the summer," Yeo told reporter Michael Russo. "I mean, my staff, we've been making plans on who's practicing, what practices we're going to have, who's playing in the [preseason] games, and this was under the assumption we would have [Kuemper and Harding] and obviously things have changed dramatically.
"We've gone from talking about three goalies to sitting here talking about one [Backstrom]. I put on the cool face last year pretending we weren't frustrated about [goaltending], but we're not even Day One into camp and we're already talking about it."
Harding was one of the best stories of the first half of the 2013-14 season with a breakout performance despite dealing with multiple sclerosis. He was leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.65) and save percentage (.933) but did not play after Dec. 31 because of problems stemming from a change to his medication. Harding was expected to be ready for training camp before the injury; the Wild said he does not need surgery.
Kuemper assumed the No. 1 role during the second half of the season after Harding and Backstrom were injured and before Bryzgalov arrived near the NHL Trade Deadline. The 24-year-old was 12-8-4 with a 2.43 GAA and a .915 save percentage.
He reportedly is seeking a one-way contract, and the Wild reportedly have offered a two-way contract. General manager Chuck Fletcher told the Star-Tribune there "hasn't been a lot of communication" since Kuemper's agent turned down the most recent proposal.
"I'm very frustrated about that, to be honest with you," Yeo said. "We're doing what we can here. I understand that there's both sides to this, but I'm looking at it from our team standpoint, and there's a very good opportunity there for someone like [Kuemper] to come in and really prove that he can be a full-time NHL goalie.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity for him. Not only am I looking at it from a competitive standpoint for our team, I'm looking at the development of this player. I've been around long enough to know that if players miss time in training camp, if they miss training camp, then they're playing catch-up the whole season. I think even more so for a young player, I think even more so for a goaltender. It's going to be a difficult thing."
The Wild open the season Oct. 9 at home against the Colorado Avalanche.