Darcy Kuemper, Capitals Agree to 5-Year, $26.25M Contract After Avalanche Stanley Cup

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 13, 2022

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Colorado Avalanche carries the Stanley Cup following the series winning victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals announced Wednesday they signed Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million contract.

TSN's Pierre LeBrun provided the annual breakdown:

Pierre LeBrun @PierreVLeBrun

Kuemper contract with Caps<br>Year 1, $6 M<br>Year 2, $6 M<br>Year 3, $6 M<br>Year 4, $4.5 M<br>Year 5, $3.75 M

Kuemper had a .921 save percentage, a 2.54 goals-against average and five shutouts in 57 starts for the Colorado Avalanche in 2021-22.

"Darcy is an established starting netminder who proved that he can win on the game's biggest stage, and we are excited to welcome him to Washington," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We feel this signing will provide our team confidence and stability in net."

The Avs telegraphed Kuemper's departure when they acquired restricted free agent Alexandar Georgiev and handed him a three-year extension with a $3.4 million AAV.

The Capitals were 12th in goals-against average (2.95) but 23rd in save percentage (.898) this past season. Change between the pipes wasn't totally unexpected in the nation's capital.

Stephen Whyno @SWhyno

Brian MacLellan said he wanted to remake his goaltending and did it, blowing it up by trading Vitek Vanecek and nontendering Ilya Samsonov.<br><br>New Washington Capitals goalie tandem is Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren.

This wasn't a great offseason to go shopping for a new goaltender, though. The Athletic's Dom Luszczyszyn ranked Kuemper as the best free agent at the position, while ESPN's Greg Wyshynski listed him in the boom-or-bust category:

"Kuemper is a difficult one to predict. There are those in the hockey analytics community who feel he's been living off the reputation he forged as the best thing on some bad Coyotes teams. The second half of his season was extraordinary -- .934 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA at even strength -- but not all that far off from what Pavel Francouz did metrically in the same span. Again, he's a solid starter and an improvement in goal for 80% of the league. But 'buyer beware,' as the playoffs have indicated."

The 32-year-old played well for Colorado, and the team's Stanley Cup triumph bolstered his leverage at the negotiating table. Washington wasn't afraid to pay up in order to upgrade at goalie.

This deal nevertheless presents a level of risk. A $5.25 million AAV is a steep price to pay, and five years is a longer term for a netminder as old as Kuemper.

Damien Cox @DamoSpin

Darcy Kuemper demonstrates what one excellent season can do for an NHL player’s wallet. Wow.

Pete Blackburn @PeteBlackburn

Yeah no wonder the Avalanche said NO THANK YOU <a href="https://t.co/OICtyh3omN">https://t.co/OICtyh3omN</a>

One thing is clear: Losing in the first round for four straight seasons isn't enough for MacLellan to consider a rebuild. Washington is looking to not only remain competitive but raise its postseason ceiling.