Wild coach Yeo: 3 goalies will have shot at starting job

Aug 29, 9:46 AM

The Minnesota Wild advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past spring after using no fewer than five goaltenders over the course of the regular season.

The three who remain on the roster - Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper - will be given a shot at grabbing the starting job heading into the new season, according to head coach Mike Yeo. 

"I have to say we're kind of open right now, to be honest with you," Yeo told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune on Wednesday during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair. "We're going to have some scrimmages … but we're going to have to pretty quickly determine who we want to give a greater workload to after that. That's going to be a good challenge."

Harding stood out early last season, posting numbers that made him a potential Vezina Trophy candidate before being forced to leave the team in December for treatment of multiple sclerosis. Backstrom, the club's de facto starter, was hindered by an abdominal injury, and Kuemper filled in quite nicely in both their absences prior to the late-season signing of Ilya Bryzgalov.

2013-14 Stats

Josh Harding180.9331.653
Darcy Kuemper120.9152.432
Niklas Backstrom50.8993.020

It appears as though Harding and Kuemper have a leg up on Backstrom, but the Finnish netminder is under contract for two more years with a cap hit of $3.4 million. On top of that, Kuemper remains unsigned and questions surrounding Harding's health continue to persist. As such, Yeo isn't taking his goaltending depth for granted.

"One thing I learned about last year is we shouldn't anticipate anything," Yeo said. "Let's just go day by day. Obviously I'm hopeful that everybody's healthy. That's No. 1. We know that we have three quality goalies. If they're healthy, they can compete and win hockey games for us."

Expectations are heightened in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and Yeo appears set to roll with whoever gives the team its best shot to win on any given night.

Sep 18, 10:05 PM

Report: Wild suspends Harding due to non-hockey related ankle fracture

Sep 18, 10:05 PM

The Minnesota Wild suspended goaltender Josh Harding on Thursday after it was revealed that his fractured ankle was not hockey related, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Harding is believed to have kicked a wall after an altercation with a teammate, and is expected to be out of the lineup for two-to-three months as a result.

The injury, and subsequent suspension, is the latest setback for Harding. The 30-year-old was limited to 29 games last season due to multiple sclerosis, but posted a tremendous .933 save percentage during that time.

Meanwhile, the Wild announced Thursday a new two-year deal for goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

Feature photo courtesy of USA Today/Marc DesRosiers

Sep 18, 9:47 PM

Report: Wild's Harding fractured foot kicking a wall; expected to miss 2-3 months

Sep 18, 9:47 PM

Details regarding the circumstances surrounding Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding's off-ice foot injury are starting to emerge, and the picture is not pretty.

According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Harding fractured his foot kicking a wall following an altercation with a teammate. If true, the self-inflicted nature of the injury - which is expected to sideline Harding for at least two to three months - adds an unfortunate turn in the preseason storyline for the Wild.

With restricted free agent goalie Darcy Kuemper still unsigned, the Wild find themselves shorthanded in the crease - an unpleasant surprise for coach Mike Yeo.

“My staff, we’ve been making plans on who’s practicing, what practices we’re going to have, who’s playing in the exhibition games, and this was under the assumption we would have Kuemps and Hards, and obviously things have changed dramatically,” Yeo said. “I put on the cool face last year pretending we weren’t frustrated about (our goaltending issues), but we’re not even Day One into camp and we’re already talking about it.”

Yeo is refusing to dwell on the injury and is keeping his focus on the players who are on the ice, like veteran netminder Niklas Backstrom. Ilya Bryzgalov traveled to Minnesota on Thursday after the Wild signed him to a professional tryout contract and will try to earn a roster spot in place of Harding.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reports that as long as Harding is injured, he will not be paid by the Wild and his contract will not count against the salary cap.

Sep 17, 6:29 PM

Ilya Bryzgalov agrees to training camp tryout with Wild

Sep 17, 6:29 PM

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov finished last season with the Minnesota Wild, and it appears as though he'll be returning to the team - for training camp, at least.

Minnesota signed Bryzgalov to a professional tryout contract on Wednesday. News of the signing comes shortly after the team confirmed reports that goaltender Josh Harding suffered an off-ice injury and would be out indefinitely.

The Wild are thin between the pipes, as they are also reportedly not close to a deal with restricted free agent netminder Darcy Kuemper, who is seeking a one-way contract.

Feature photo courtesy of USA Today/Brace Hemmelgarn

Sep 17, 5:26 PM

Wild's Josh Harding out indefinitely with fractured foot

Sep 17, 5:26 PM

The Minnesota Wild announced Wednesday that goaltender Josh Harding is out indefinitely with a fractured foot.

According to the team, Harding suffered the injury in an off-ice incident on Sunday and will not require surgery.

Read more about the circumstances surrounding Harding's injury and the Wild's goaltending situation below.

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Ron Cheno

Sep 17, 4:41 PM

Report: ankle injury to Wild's Harding due to altercation with teammate; likely out months

Sep 17, 4:41 PM

The off-ice ankle injury suffered by Josh Harding will likely keep the Minnesota Wild netminder out for months.

The injury was apparently suffered during an altercation with a teammate, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The costly result of the incident has coach Mike Yeo fuming.

"I’m frustrated and I’m disappointed," Yeo said. "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."

Yeo added his full attention was on veteran Niklas Backstrom, who is the team's presumed starter going forward. Backstrom experienced a noticeable decline in play last season, with his save percentage dipping below .900, meaning Minnesota could look elsewhere for goaltending help.

General manager Chuck Fletcher has reached out to the agent for Ilya Bryzgalov and is hoping to continue contract talks with Darcy Kuemper, who was Minnesota's best netminder aside from Harding last season and is seeking a one-way contract.

Fletcher still doesn't know what happened to Harding's ankle, but he is determined to figure it out.

"Whatever happened we have to figure out," he said. "Clearly, it’s bad for Josh, it’s bad for our team. We just have to figure out what happened. But I’m not sure I want to get into a whole public expose of what happened. We’ve got to speak to the players and figure out what happened."

Sep 16, 7:21 PM

Report: Wild's Josh Harding suffers off-ice ankle injury

Sep 16, 7:21 PM

The Minnesota Wild will start training camp without Josh Harding, who hurt his ankle away from the ice according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Harding was looking forward to starting the season with a clean bill of health after missing the latter half of last season due to multiple sclerosis complications. His stellar statistics from 2013-14 (1.65 goals-against average, .933 save percentage) made him the clear front-runner in Minnesota's starting goaltender battle.

The injury leaves veteran Niklas Backstrom as Minnesota's only healthy goaltender under contract. Darcy Kuemper remains unsigned despite outperforming Backstrom in 26 appearances last season.

If Harding's ankle injury is serious, the Wild could turn to the free agent market for an answer. Veterans such as Tomas Vokoun and Martin Brodeur are still available. The team could also turn to Ilya Bryzgalov, who was 7-1-3 and made nine playoff appearances in a brief stint with Minnesota.

Aug 15, 9:55 AM

Wild GM: 'Everything's a go' for Backstrom, Harding after injury-plagued season

Aug 15, 9:55 AM

Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher is confident his team will have both of its top goaltenders in the lineup to start the 2014-15 season – even though neither finished last season healthy.

"Everything’s a go with both goalies,” Fletcher told Michael Russo of The Star Tribune. "Everybody seems to be feeling pretty good, and at this stage, knock on wood, all of our players who were banged up at the end of the season [are] feeling better."

Abdominal surgery ended the season of veteran netminder Niklas Backstrom, while ongoing complications due to multiple sclerosis derailed a very strong campaign by Josh Harding. The Wild were forced to start Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov in the playoffs with both Backstrom and Harding out.

"Now's the time of the year, with about a month to go, you want to reach out and make sure there’s no issues you don’t know about so if there is something you have time to help the process," Fletcher said. "With Josh and Nik, you’re just trying to reach out and see how they’re doing. They’re both doing really well."

Kuemper remains unsigned after finishing the final year of his entry-level contract, but Fletcher insists Kuemper is part of Minnesota's future and the team is happy with its three goaltenders.

"God forbid if a situation happens like last year, then we’ll deal with it," he said. "We have three goalies. It’s not like we have one. We have three. We feel we have depth, quality and quantity, and there’s just no reason to doubt the players that are there.”