Wild netminder Josh Harding expected to retire

Wild netminder Josh Harding expected to retire

It’s not the way it should end, but it looks like the hockey career of Josh Harding is over.

According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Wild netminder is expected to announce his retirement.

In Nov. 2012, Harding announced that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He played only five games during the regular season and took over for an injured Niklas Backstrom before Game 1 of Minnesota’s first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. That June he would win the Masterton Trophy.

Harding last played in the NHL on New Year’s Eve 2013. At that time, he had recorded three shutouts, posted a .940 even strength save percentage and won 18 of his 26 starts. He was the Vezina Trophy frontrunner on many midseason ballots. But a change in his MS medication caused complications that would end the goaltender’s season, despite returning to the ice a short time later.

Last summer, Harding appeared to be progressing and was practicing regularly in preparation for training camp. Then in September, after an argument with a teammate, Harding kicked a wall, fracturing his foot in the process. The WIld suspended him and eventually demoted him to Iowa of the AHL.

Down in Iowa, Harding played in two games, leaving the second one after two periods due to dehydration, which was related to his MS. Those were the last games he played.

Harding will see his contract expire this summer and enter unrestricted free agency. He’ll be 31 in June and given how his MS has affected his career over the last two and a half years, it's hard to see an NHL team wanting to take a chance on him.

“I wouldn’t want to speak for him, but he has bigger issues than just hockey,” said Wild GM Chuck Fletcher.

It’s not the way Harding should go out, but as Fletcher said, his health, and his charity, is more important than the game of hockey.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!