Welcome to THW’s goalie news, a daily article chronicling everything you need to know about goaltenders, from top saves to social media strangeness. Goalies are a unique breed of athletes, but we love them all the same. They are the masked men of the hockey world, and these are their stories.
Today, we’ll take a look at Darcy Kuemper’s contract extension, some goalies trying to build on (or erase) last year’s results, and a desert goalie joining some impressive names in the history books.
Two Years for Kuemper
The Arizona Coyotes wanted to make sure to lock up Kuemper, their breakout goaltending star from last season, and they did just that on the opening day of the season, signing the netminder to a two-year extension. NHL.com did not have financial details, but Craig Moran of the Athletic reported that it would be for an average annual value (AAV) of $4.5 million.
Kuemper stepped in for the injured Antti Raanta last season, and he put up career numbers, going 27-20-8 but posting a .925 save percentage (SV%), a 2.33 goals against average (GAA), and an incredible 25.06 goals saved above average (GSAA). Recently, we ranked him ninth amongst NHL starting goalies. Kuemper was quick to express his excitement about staying in the desert:
I’m thrilled to re-sign with the Coyotes. We have a great team and first-class organization and I love living and playing in the Valley. I’m excited to grow and build with our group. This is a great day for me and my family.Darcy Kuemper to NHL.com
With Raanta locked up only through next season, Kuemper’s extension makes him the presumptive starter going forward in Arizona. That’s no surprise given the numbers he put up last year, but don’t sleep on Raanta either. If he comes back fully healthy, the Coyotes will have one of the strongest goaltending tandems in the league.
Fact or Fiction?
The opening night of the NHL season gave us a taste of some of the most interesting goaltending stories from last season. Were Jordan Binnington and Jacob Markstrom’s breakout seasons to be believed? And would Martin Jones continue to struggle?
It’s too early to answer all of those questions, but there were some promising early returns. Markstrom and Binnington both looked fine despite suffering matching 3-2 defeats. Markstrom made 19 saves on 22 stops but couldn’t stop Connor McDavid’s beautiful game-winner with 5:23 left. Binnington held off 31 of 34 but got beat by Jacob Vrana in overtime and didn’t look happy with himself.
On the other end of the spectrum, Martin Jones had a rough evening with four goals against on 35 shots, but his teammates left him on an island more than once, including on the Golden Knight’s final goal, when Reilly Smith scored on a two-on-none breakaway.
It was a mixed bag throughout the league, but goaltenders often scuffle out of the gate. Tomorrow night, look forward to the huge Sunshine State showdown between two former Vezina Trophy winners: Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the debuting Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers.
A Bit of History
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights grabbed a bit of history with his win tonight, becoming the third goalie ever to notch ten career wins on opening night.
Joining a group that includes Curtis Joseph and Martin Brodeur is an impressive achievement for any goaltender. We’ll have to wait another year to see if the man they call “Flower” can take the record for himself.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.