Last month, we passed along word that Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher was receiving trade calls on RFA goalie Darcy Kuemper, with Fletcher explaining he was a “little hesitant” to deal Kuemper away.
Guess he was more than a little hesitant.
On Tuesday, the Wild announced they signed Kuemper to a one-year, $1.55 million extension — avoiding the arbitration process and, for now, keeping the 26-year-old tender in a Wild uniform.
Kuemper has spent his entire professional career with the Wild organization and, at one time, was considered the club’s goalie of the future.
Things certainly looked that way in 2013-14, when he went 12-8-4 with a .915 save percentage and 2.43 GAA during the regular season, and 3-1-0 with a .913 save percentage and 2.03 GAA in the playoffs.
But Kuemper struggled to reclaim that form in ’14-15, which forced Fletcher to acquire Devan Dubnyk — and all Dubnyk’s done since the trade is revive his career, and become a major workhorse for the Wild.
Dubnyk started 66 games this season, the first of his six-year, $26 million deal. Because he’s the clear-cut No. 1 in Minnesota and projects to be for a while, it’s not surprising Kuemper was the subject of trade calls.
Fletcher could still trade Kuemper, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock if he’s retained.
Dubnyk turns 31 next season, and could probably stand a lighter workload moving forward. That could be a good fit for Kuemper, who had some really nice stretches this season — especially in December and January — and Fletcher has a little more breathing room under the cap, now that Thomas Vanek is off the books and the Wild didn’t spend like crazy in free agency.
That said, Kuemper’s made it clear he wants to try and land a starting opportunity, something that’s unlikely to happen in Minnesota.
Fletcher told the Pioneer Press as much in April, saying “if there’s a deal that makes sense for us and allows him to get a better opportunity, I think that would be good for both of us.”
So, stay tuned.