Fresh off taking home the trophy that every free agent who signs today will set out to pursue, goaltender Darcy Kuemper has signed a 5-year contract with the Washington Capitals. Kuemper was arguably the top goaltender on the market and had been linked to several teams who were in the market for a goaltender, including the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the end, however, Washington came out on top and found their new starting goalie.
A Saskatchewan native, the 6-foot-5 netminder has had a career full of ups and downs, to say the least. A longtime member of the Minnesota Wild, Kuemper also had a short stint with the Los Angeles Kings and then with the Arizona Coyotes. The Avalanche traded for him around this time last year after Philipp Grubauer signed a six-year contract with the Seattle Kraken.
He posted a win-loss record of 37-12-4 with a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.54 and a save percentage (SV%) of .921. He suffered two separate injuries throughout the playoffs, but returned in time to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Cup final and ultimately helped his team get the job done. He carries a lifetime record of 143-95-36 with an all-time GAA of 2.48 and a SV% of .918 throughout his career, further supporting his case as the top goaltender on the market.
Avalanche Moved on Early
Although Kuemper was the one between the pipes during the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup run, it was sort of obvious that he was going to test free agency this offseason, even during the playoffs.
Colorado will have to negotiate a new contract for both longtime superstar Nathan MacKinnon and young defenseman Bowen Byram next season, so locking Kuemper up long-term was seemingly out of the question.
And to end any possible speculation of Kuemper returning to the team, the Avalanche traded for New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev last Friday, and appear to be heading into the 2022-23 season with him and Pavel Francouz as their goaltending tandem.
Washington Gets Their Number One Goalie
The Capitals were in the market for a new number one after trading Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils at the 2022 NHL Draft and after losing Ilya Samsonov to the Toronto Maple Leafs on a one-year contract, the framework was clearly there for them to pursue Kuemper. Now that he’s locked up for the next five years, expect the Capitals to tackle the 2022-23 season with Kuemper and Pheonix Copley as their goaltending tandem.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Tracker
Durability is Kuemper’s biggest concern as a goaltender by far. He actually played more games (57) last season than any other season of his career, which should be promising for the Capitals. Considering the term, the hope for the team is obviously that his workload from 2021-22 is sustainable not just for this season but for the rest of his contract.