At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, I must admit I was a bit skeptical about the Minnesota Wild-Darcy Kuemper situation. Niklas Backstrom was finally healthy and is being paid $3.42 million a year, so it seemed fairly obvious that he would be the starting goaltender for the club. Nonetheless, Coach Mike Yeo chose Darcy Kuemper to start against the Colorado Avalanche on Opening Night and apparently made the right choice because he’s been unstoppable ever since.
4 Starts, 3 Shutouts
Yes, you read that correctly. Darcy Kuemper has basically been a brick wall for the Minnesota Wild, shutting out his opponent three out of four times so far this season. The 24-year old goalie leads the National Hockey League in shutouts, and sits only behind Detroit Red Wings netminder Jonas Gustavsson in save percentage (.980) and goals against average (.50). Just to be clear, Gustavsson has only played one game, so Kuemper mind as well just consider himself the best in the league right now.
To be fair, Kuemper has only shutout the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes, so his impressive stats must be taken with a grain of salt. Not to say that Colorado and Arizona aren’t talented enough to score goals, it’s just not like Kuemper has truly been tested yet, in my opinion. The Anaheim Ducks proved to be a bit more of a task for the young goalie, as he allowed two goals in that game, but one of them was Corey Perry’s, and that’s just not really fair.
Regardless, three shutouts in four games is still impressive no matter how easy or hard the team’s schedule is. Kuemper has still stopped 96 of 98 shots he’s faced so far this season and has truly been the superstar for the Minnesota Wild, especially in Thursday night’s game against the Coyotes. The rest of the team looked like they hadn’t played in a month, but Kuemper shut it down and the Wild pulled off a 2-0 victory.
After much negotiation this offseason, the Minnesota Wild and Darcy Kuemper finally agreed to a one-way, two-year, $2.5 million deal and Kuemper is proving that he’s worth the struggle it took to get him here. If his stellar play continues, the team might want to consider adding a few more years to that deal, like they’ve been doing with a couple of their other young core players. Kuemper has the potential to become Minnesota’s franchise goaltender, so this would be a good long-term investment. Niklas Backstrom is already 36 years old and getting paid too much to sit on the bench most nights. When Josh Harding recovers from his ankle injury, his health is still always going to be questionable – GM Chuck Fletcher has to have realized this by now. Darcy Kuemper provides a stable, talented option in net that the Minnesota Wild would be crazy to pass up on.
The season is still quite young and there’s plenty of time left for things to change, but Kuemper seems determined to prove he can play in the big leagues and so far, he’s doing an awfully good job of showing Minnesota he’s the real deal.