There was a time when Darcy Kuemper, the Wild’s 26-year-old netminder, was the potential future in Minnesota’s crease. But a difficult season paired with a trade for Devan Dubnyk in 2014-15, who went on an incredible run post-acquisition, has seen Kuemper relegated to backup duty with no end in sight. He may have a chance at playing his way into a bigger role elsewhere, though.
Speaking about the Wild’s plans for the upcoming draft, Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher said that teams have been calling and inquiring about the availability of Kuemper, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Rand. With Kuemper currently a restricted free agent and with the chance to become unrestricted at the end of his next contract — which would likely be a one-year deal in Minnesota — Fletcher is listening.
“The net right now is Devan (Dubnyk’s),” Fletcher said, via Rand. “If we have an opportunity to move (Kuemper) and get a fair return, we’ll look at it. But I don’t want to be too aggressive and leave us short in that position.”
Of course, if the Wild do find a “fair return” for Kuemper, it might make more sense to move him. He did appear in 21 games this past season, but he only started 16, posting a record of 6-7-5 with two shutouts, a .915 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average. That’s not awful, but the Wild may be able to find someone cheaper to take over that role without risking losing an asset next off-season for nothing.
Maybe the most appealing thing about Kuemper is that he has the one unteachable aspect to his game: size. He’s a massive goaltender. At 6-foot-5, 212 pounds, he’s one of the 11 largest goaltenders in the league, and that’s obviously an asset to some teams looking for goaltending help.
But in moving Kuemper, the tricky thing is finding the right fit for a backup netminder. One option — and, honestly, the most entertaining one — would be the return of Ilya Bryzgalov to Minnesota. The eccentric netminder is more than one year removed from his last NHL action, but he wants to make his return and has a history with the Wild.
His play in the Minnesota goal was good last time around, but does that mean he can replicate his run, which saw him go 7-1-3 with three shutouts, a .911 SP and 2.12 GAA? Not exactly, but he’s willing to do it for cheap. That would be an asset for a Wild team that's going to have to be clever financially to stay under the cap and improve their roster.
Other free agent options could include Al Montoya or Carter Hutton, both of whom have experience sliding into the backup role. Hutton is coming off of arguably his best season, while Montoya has been a steady backup for several seasons.