Details are starting to emerge regarding the contractual standoff between Minnesota and RFA goalie Darcy Kuemper. From TSN:
No thaw yet in standoff between MIN and G Darcy Kuemper. MIN wants him on 2-way contract; Kuemper seeking a one-year, one-way deal at $850K.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 15, 2014
While the money might come as a surprise — there was a some speculation Kuemper was looking for a bigger payday, and $850k is a pretty minimal pay bump — the directional nature of the contract isn’t. Kuemper, 24, wants to be at the NHL level and many will argue he should be; he appeared in 26 games for the Wild last season and bailed them out when Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding went down to injury, and it could be said Minnesota wouldn’t have made the postseason without Kuemper’s efforts (he was the goalie of record for 14 of the Wild’s 20 games in February and March, and eventually supplanted Ilya Bryzgalov as the postseason starter.)
Problem is, the Wild currently have a logjam in goal.
Last month, GM Chuck Fletcher said both Backstrom and Harding were healthy and ready to start the season. If those prognoses are accurate, having Kuemper on a one-way would put the Wild in the unenviable position of having to carry three goalies — impractical from a practice perspective, plus it eats up a roster spot — and Kuemper would be subjected to waivers if the club tried to send him down to AHL Iowa.
Given Kuemper’s pedigree, you’d have to think another NHL club would be interested in scooping him up — something the Wild can ill-afford, given the uncertainty surrounding both Backstrom and Harding (not to mention Kuemper is, for now anyway, the club’s goalie of the future.)
UPDATE: To be clear, Kuemper needs to hit 54 career games played before his waiver exemption is up. He’s played 40, so he wouldn’t be eligible to be grabbed by another team until he plays 14 games this season. It’s also worth noting the waiver exemption expires after this season.
All of this comes at a pretty bad time for Minnesota. The club opens training camp in a few days and head coach Mike Yeo said he planned to split each of the club’s first three preseason games between his three goalies — Backstrom, Harding and Kuemper.
Now you have to wonder if the latter will even be in attendance.
Related: Kuemper’s agent says Wild negotiations are stuck, KHL deal ‘could happen’