The Minnesota Wild re-signed goaltender Josh Harding to a three-year contract on Tuesday.
"I love being here, I love the city, I love the fans," Harding said. "It was really important for me to stay here and work towards my goal (of being a starting goaltender in the NHL)."
The 28-year-old Harding was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, had he chosen to test the free agent market. The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting the deal is worth $5.7 million over three years.
"I like the way the organization is heading and I want to be a part of it," Harding said. "We're maturing, we're still young and have a lot of talent. I'm ready to get back at it."
Harding missed the entire 2010-11 season with a devastating knee injury. However, the netminder spent a full year rehabbing and was signed to a one-year contract with Minnesota last summer. He came back strong, posting 13 wins, .917 goals against average and a 2.62 save percentage. He was named the NHL's First Star of the Week ending Nov. 7.
"Last year was a big stepping stone, but it's just a start," Harding said. "I know I have a lot more to give."
Re-signing Harding gives Minnesota two proven NHL-caliber goaltenders returning next season. Harding and Niklas Backstrom helped backstop the Wild to the best record in the NHL before a multitude of injuries sidetracked the team. However, Harding believes the club became stronger because of the adversity.
"We went through the downfall last year," Harding said about the Wild's midseason struggles. "You have to learn from your mistakes, we've been there before and know what to change."
Eventually, the Regina, Saskatchewan native would like to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. He believes the three-year deal gives him an opportunity to do so in Minnesota.
"Ever since I was drafted I've wanted to be the number one goalie for the Minnesota Wild," Harding said. "Obviously that's not going to be given to me.
"Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to take over."