NHL: It's Official, Say Goodbye To James Sheppard and Josh Harding

Nick MaxsonCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2010

DETROIT - MARCH 11: Josh Harding #37 of the Minnesota Wild makes a save while playing the Detroit Red Wings on March 11, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 5-1. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After the recent additions of Casey Wellman and Matt Hackett, it is clear that both Josh Harding James Sheppard will be in new homes next season.

Wellman, who just finished his sophomore season with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was tied at sixth in the nation in NCAA Division I with 23 goals.

Wellman was also ranked 14th in the country in points with 45.

"Casey is a skilled, offensive forward who shoots the puck,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “He was a highly sought after free agent, and we are excited he chose to sign with us.”

Wellman signed a two-year contract with the Wild Tuesday afternoon, and will appear in his first game against Nashville tomorrow night.

Casey, A center, puts the Wild with five centers on the roster.

Someone is going to have to move, and with a two-year contract signed for Wellman good through the end of next season Sheppard is probably the odd-man out.

Sheppard, who up until the trade of Eric Belanger was a consistent healthy scratch, needed to show the coaching staff and front office that he is capable of putting up points, and so far he has not done that.

Although he has had some strong performances, if Wellman is as good as they say Sheppard will be the one boarding a ticket out of St. Paul come May or April.

Josh Harding has a similar fate, unfortunately for Wild fans but actually good for Harding.

Since Backstrom has been injured, Harding has been a force in net for Minnesota and is solidifying his case to be a starting goaltender somewhere else.

Harding was injured before the trade deadline, and although he was not moved he did stir up some interest from other teams and it is expected that the talk will continue after the season ends.

Minnesota prepared for the potential move of Harding by signing prospect goaltender Matt Hackett to a three-year entry level contract.

"Matt is a big goalie who has played a lot of minutes the last two seasons in Plymouth,” Fletcher said. “His numbers have improved in each of his junior seasons, and he was recognized this season by being invited to Canada’s World Junior camp. We look forward to continuing to see Matt develop in our system.”

Hackett went 33-18-3 with a 2.62 GAA and a .925 SV percent in 56 games this season with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League.

Hackett was drafted in the third round (77th overall) in the 2009 NHL entry draft by Minnesota and was the number one ranked goaltender in North America by Central Scouting Services.

This means Anton Khudobin will be the new back-up for Niklas Backstrom next year who had a great start to his NHL career winning his first start against Philadelphia on February 6th at home.

So the next big question is what will Minnesota want in return for Harding?

It my belief that draft picks and maybe a solid second or third line offensive player may be the return for Josh Harding.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher in every move he has made this season has been acquiring young, talented players.

That trend will continue and hopefully next season the Wild can be a stronger contender in the Western Conference and Northwest Division.