Darcy Kuemper tried to play the KHL card in his RFA negotiations with the Minnesota Wild, but all he needed was an unfortunate incident to open the door for his return.
On Wednesday, the Wild announced that goaltender Josh Harding would be out "indefinitely" (read: months) with a fractured foot after an off-ice incident. According to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune, the incident was with a teammate, which afterward Harding kicked a wall, causing the injury. Down to only Niklas Backstrom in goal, general manager Chuck Fletcher reached out to Ilya Bryzgalov, bringing him back on a tryout contract.
Further bolstering his depth in goal, Fletcher was forced to move on his contract standoff with Kuemper, signing the netminder late Thursday to a two-year, one-way deal worth $2.5 million. Kuemper was looking for a one-year, one-way deal, while the team was offering a two-year pact with the second year being one-way.
What does this mean for the Wild's goaltending situation going forward?
In the meantime, Fletcher said Thursday night that Kuemper’s signing won’t affect Bryzgalov’s tryout. If Kuemper’s not one of the top two goalies in training camp, the Wild can sign Bryzgalov and assign Kuemper to Iowa of the American Hockey League without waivers.
If that happened, Kuemper would be paid his $1 million salary there. Bryzgalov also gives the Wild insurance if veteran Niklas Backstrom were to get hurt.
Because of the nature of Harding's injury, the Wild have suspended him and his $2.1 million salary will not count against their cap.
Backstrom was hampered by injury last season, while Kuemper and Bryzgalov impressed at times when they had the no. 1 goalie title in Minnesota. With Harding out of the picture for at least a couple months, the competition for the no.1 job is once again open.
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