The Colorado Avalanche balked at a big free-agent price for Philipp Grubauer, but they still made a big goaltending investment on Wednesday. The Coyotes confirmed that they traded Kuemper to the Avalanche, getting Conor Timmins and a 2022 first-rounder in return. There’s also a conditional 2024 third-rounder involved.
Trade: Avalanche receive Kuemper as Grubauer replacement
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that the Coyotes will retain $1 million of Kuemper’s salary in the trade with the Avalanche.
If true, that means that Kuemper will carry a $4.5M cap hit with the Avalanche in 2021-22. Kuemper, 31, is entering a contract year, and is eligible to become a UFA after this season.
With Kuemper and Pavel Francouz both under contract for 2021-22, the Avalanche have some clarity about their goaltending situation. Will they extend one or the other? If not, free-agent goalie departures could become a recurring theme for the Avalanche as they hope to win a Stanley Cup with Nathan MacKinnon.
[More on the NHL free-agent goalie carousel; Read up on Grubauer with Kraken]
It’s a steep price for the Avalanche to pay, although they might argue that it’s worth it to maintain some roster flexibility. Unlike other teams, they didn’t commit themselves to a medium or long-term free-agent goalie contract.
They also saw up-close how strong Darcy Kuemper can be in net. While he didn’t pull off an upset against the Avalanche during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kuemper kept the Coyotes in some one-sided games. For all we know, Kuemper could end up being a huge part of what the Avalanche are building.
Darcy Kuemper (traded to Colorado for a 1st and Connor Timmins) over the past three seasons: +37.3 goals saved over expected. Extremely good. pic.twitter.com/9Z4vfTu2B9
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 28, 2021
(Or he could be a useful stopgap. We’ll see.)
Kuemper trade adds more useful building blocks in Coyotes rebuild
It’s remarkable how much rebuilding teams managed to snag from trades for players entering contract years.
The Blue Jackets landed an incredible haul for Seth Jones, who’s expected to sign an extension with the Blackhawks. It sure seems like the Coyotes sold-high on Darcy Kuemper, too.
Between taking on bad contracts and shipping out Kuemper, Conor Garland, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes are generally saving money in the short-term, while speeding up their rebuild. If they make the right choices in the upcoming drafts, and develop those talents properly, they could be dangerous in the future.
The #coyotes now own two first-round picks and five second-round picks in the 2022 draft.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 28, 2021
Not bad for a team that lost a ton of futures thanks to that strange recruiting violation under John Chayka.
It remains to be seen if Conor Timmins, 22, will be a key asset. The RFA has struggled with concussion issues, but has been hyped as a prospect. So far, he’s played in 33 regular-season games with the Avalanche, including 31 last season.
Simply enough, Timmins will receive a better chance to prove himself with the Coyotes than he would with the loaded Avalanche.
Overall, strong work from the rebuilding Coyotes, even if they have a very, very long way to go before they can look anything like the Avalanche.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.