The retired 32-year-old goaltender was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) back in 2012 during the last lockout. Harding told ESPN’s Scott Burnside that he considered keeping his diagnosis private, but didn’t because he have to take time away from the game for treatment, and he felt that going public would do some good. Harding says having MS is nothing to be ashamed of.
Harding returned to the NHL that season, playing five regular season games and five playoff games. He won the Masterton Trophy for dedication to hockey. He played 29 games the next season, posting a remarkable 0.933 SV% and a 1.65 GAA. Unfortunately, that was the end of his hockey career. As Harding told Burnside, “when the doctors say enough’s enough, you kind of have to listen to them.”
Now that Bickell has been diagnosed with MS, he and Harding have been in contact about their awful common illness. Harding has told Bickell what treatments worked for him and shared strategies for dealing with the incurable disease. However, Harding can’t tell him for sure that he’ll play in the NHL again. He told Burnside that “if there was a blueprint for what you have to do, I really think I’d still be in the league.”
While Harding was only able to play for 39 more games after his diagnosis, he says he’s rooting for Bickell and hopes that his experience with the disease will be different than Harding’s. Harding says he’s at peace with his career path, and enjoys spending time with his two children as well as helping coach a local high school team.
Another former goalie with MS, Jordan Sigalet plans to be in touch with Bickell to offer their support.
- There has been much talk about expansion at the NHL GM meetings. The rules for which players need to be protected have been finalized, and the GMs are receiving guidelines about all possible ways of circumventing the rules and why they’re not allowed. Some GMs are concerned about the exclusive free agency window, where Las Vegas GM George McPhee will be able to meet with pending free agents. Could the something Knights make a handshake deal with a free agent to sign on July 1, but not sign them then in order to select another player from that team? No. Can other teams make “wink, nudge” deals with McPhee to not select a certain player? No. All trades will have to be done through a trade call to the NHL and documented. The penalties for trying to circumvent the rules are going to be stiff, possibly a first round pick. As Devils GM Ray Shero pointed out to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, all deals will have “pass the smell test with the league.”
- In his weekly “30 Thoughts“, Elliotte Friedman wondered if the Blue Jackets would be interested in parting ways with Brandon Saad. Columbus acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks in June of 2015 and promptly signed him to a six-year, $36MM contract. Saad has been a solid performer for the Blue Jackets, but the cap-strapped team may want to move his $6MM salary. There appears to be some disconnect between Saad and the club, as he’s fifth in both team scoring and ice-time, but was almost a healthy scratch last week. Friedman reported the Blackhawks looked into re-acquiring Saad last season, but couldn’t make it work. The Blackhawks could certainly use Saad back, with his chemistry with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the downswing. It’s not clear how they could make it work salary-wise, though. There’s always a market for a 30-goal scorer, especially one who is just 24.