It looks like Josh Harding’s loss is indeed Darcy Kuemper’s gain. The Minnesota Wild signed the netminder to a two-year deal on Thursday; it’s one-way for both seasons and worth $2.5 million overall, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno.
Kuemper, 24, didn’t want to deal with the uncertainty (and, one would assume, the potential shortcomings) of a two-way contract while the Wild weren’t ready to hand him significant money after only seeing him play 32 regular season games at the NHL level.
While there was some compromise here – especially from the Wild – it’s probably fair to say that this is a good situation for both sides. Kuemper gets some extra security with a contract that will take him fairly close to unrestricted free agency while Minnesota could enjoy some serious savings if his solid early work (13-10-4 with a .915 save percentage) is the sign of steadiness to come.
The team now has some added security if the mediocre/injury-prone past two seasons aren’t mere hiccups for Niklas Backstrom, who is already 36. One could even see GM Chuck Fletcher trying to move the Finnish netminder, as his $3.42 million cap hit doesn’t expire until after the 2015-16 campaign.
The biggest “losers” here are probably Bryzgalov and Harding.
Breezy’s camp invite may have indeed been little more than a bargaining tool by the Wild, though things could shake out OK if the 34-year-old more receptive to a two-way deal or even impresses enough to eventually get an offer from another NHL team.
For what it’s worth, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports that the Wild said it won’t “affect” his tryout:
Harding is in the last year of a contract set to expire and has dealt with serious bad luck in this current injury and his considerable, unfortunate struggles with multiple sclerosis. If all things were equal, one would imagine that Harding, 30, would be the No. 1 guy for Minnesota.
Unfortunately, injury luck can be very unfair, which opens the door for an interesting season for the Wild and Kuemper.