The team made the announcement on the first day of NHL free agency, putting a dependable goalie behind Niklas Backstrom. The 27-year-old Harding missed all of last season with torn ligaments in his right knee, leaving his future with the team in doubt.
Veteran Jose Theodore was brought in and played well, but Theodore’s desire to compete for a full-time starting job made the decision easier to retain Harding. Theodore signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers.
Harding went 9-12 with a 3.05 goals-against average during the 2009-10 season. He has started 65 games for the Wild in five seasons. He was a second round pick of the Wild in 2002 and has spent his entire NHL career with Minnesota, going 28-39-4 with a 2.66 goals-against average.
Another one of the Wild’s unrestricted free agents, left wing Andrew Brunette, signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Forwards Chuck Kobasew, John Madden and Antti Miettinen are the other notable Wild veterans who became unrestricted free agents. None is expected to be re-signed by the Wild.
Also Friday, the Wild cut ties with defenseman Cam Barker after he cleared waivers, and he signed a two-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. The Wild traded their 2009 first-round draft pick, defenseman Nick Leddy, and defenseman Kim Johnsson to the Blackhawks for Barker in February 2010.