MINNEAPOLIS — Former Red Deer Rebels goaltender Darcy Kuemper is on his way back to Minnesota to try to save the Wild’s muddled goaltending situation.
Kuemper ended a summer-long stalemate with the Wild when he signed a two-year contract on Thursday night, one day after starting goalie Josh Harding was ruled out indefinitely with a broken right foot.
The 24-year-old Kuemper went 12-8-4 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 26 games as a rookie last season, stepping in to keep the Wild afloat when Harding had to step away due to multiple sclerosis, and Niklas Backstrom struggled with an array of injuries.
The Wild made several moves in free agency over the summer, most notably signing veteran Thomas Vanek to help boost the team’s lagging offence. But they couldn’t get anything done in net and entered this week with Harding and the 37-year-old Backstrom as their only options.
Then Harding broke his foot, prompting general manager Chuck Fletcher to bring in veteran Ilya Bryzgalov on Wednesday for a training camp tryout as negotiations with Kuemper dragged on.
With training camp set to open on Friday, the Wild finally relented and gave Kuemper the one-way contract he was demanding. That means Kuemper will make the same amount of money this season whether he is playing in the NHL or in the minor American Hockey League.
The signing and the injury to Harding give Kuemper the chance he has wanted to be a full-time goalie in the NHL.
After helping the Wild reach the playoffs last season, he went 3-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average in Minnesota’s first-round victory over the Colorado Avalanche before getting injured and missing the second round against Chicago.