I’m interested in reasons why the Oilers shouldn’t offer Josh Harding a one year contract for whatever the maximum you can pay a guy without giving up more than a second round pick in compensation is (about $2.6MM last year, according to speeds at IOF. As I see it, making the offer to Harding is as close to a no-brainer decision as the Oilers could possibly have.
For those who are less than familiar with him, Harding is generally considered a blue chip goaltending prospect. He dominated the AHL at a young age and has a career .920 save percentage in the NHL. He’s the same as age as JDD but actually has a track record. Minnesota committed $24MM to Nicklas Backstrom this year and they’ve made their choice with respect to who their goaltender will be in the long term. Backstrom’s contract would likely prove difficult to move for any value.
As you might be aware, you aren’t allowed to trade players whose RFA offers you have matched. In effect, if Minnesota were to match, all they’d be doing is guaranteeing that they’ll have the same problem next summer, in that they couldn’t trade Harding and he’d need a new contract after next season. They’d also be spending an obscene amount of money on their backup goaltending for this year, which is probably something that they don’t want to do at a time when they clearly need to make their time on the ice in front of their goalie better.
Taking a one year $2.6ishMM offer would be to Harding’s advantage because he otherwise runs the risk of another year in Minnesota in which he makes maybe $1MM and sits as a backup. A longer contract might not be a good idea for him – the Wild might decide to match it and eat the cost for one year, before looking to move him for a better return than a single draft pick. Harding’s worst case from signing an offer sheet with the Oilers would involve serving as Backstrom’s backup for another year, while enjoying an extra $1.8MM in salary or so and having the security of a no trade clause.
From Edmonton’s perspective, they can buy the rights to a blue chipper pretty cheaply, at the cost of only ~$2.6MM and a second round draft pick. That gives them a year to see what they think of him. At worst, they end up paying ~$2.6MM to Harding and finds out that, track record notwithstanding, he’s not much better than JDD. They can jettison him after the season, if they feel the need to. If the Wild match, Edmonton gets Minnesota spending ~$2.6MM on a backup goalie who they can’t trade and who needs a new contract at the end of the season. This will prevent them from spending that money to improve in other areas of the ice, which directly benefits the Oilers. At best, the Oilers get a great goaltending prospect on a one year deal for ~$2.6MM at the cost of a second round draft pick. They’ll own his rights for another year afterwards and can decide then whether they want to try and do something long term with him.
Why wouldn’t this be something that the Oilers do?