If he hasn't done so already, Josh Harding can tell his landlord in Houston to look for a new tenant. Having earned the credentials to stay in the National Hockey League, Harding signed a multi-year contract with the Wild on Wednesday. Barring injury, Harding will be the backup to Niklas Backstrom when the Wild kicks off its season against the Chicago Blackhawks on October 4.
Not only does the Wild have Backstrom and Harding locked up for at least the next two seasons, but the club appears set in goaltending depth as well. Last week, Minnesota inked Nolan Schaefer to a contract. Schaefer will likely be the number one goaltender in Houston along with a young Wild prospect - possibly Anton Khudobin, who is not yet under contract.
It would seem a shock if Harding were to return to Houston. He has started the last three seasons with the Aeros, having played at least 38 games in each of those years. In 2005-06, he posted a 29-8-0 record with a 2.68 goals against average. He followed that up with a 17-16-4 mark and a 2.48 GAA before getting called up to Minnesota where he finished the season.
Harding saw action in seven games with the Wild last season and performed brilliantly. He posted a 3-2-1 record with a miniscule 1.16 goals against average and a .960 save percentage. In 10 career NHL games, Harding has already posted two shutouts. In making his debut against St. Louis on April 4, 2006, Harding became the first NHL goaltender to appear in a shootout during his debut in the Wild's 5-4 shootout win.
Harding, 23, was the first goaltender ever selected by the Wild when he was selected in the second round (38th overall) of the 2002 Entry Draft. Since that day, he has been dubbed the Wild's "goaltender of the future," and his performances to this point have done little to change that reputation.