Minnesota Wild: Who’s the Backup Goaltender if Kuemper is Traded?


Backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper could be traded this offseason for the right deal according to GM Chuck Fletcher.  As the Minnesota Wild look to move their talented backup netminder they will need to take a hard look at who will be left to replace him.

Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has his work cut out for him this offseason and he’s known it from the minute the Wild were eliminated from the playoffs.  In his end of season press conference, he gave some very specific actions that he would be mulling over this summer.  One of them was if he could get the right trade deal to move backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper he would more than likely take that deal.  His thought was that if he could find a good situation for Kuemper and the team, he would consider making the swap to improve both the team and Kuemper.

It’s a great move to take a valuable piece like Kuemper and recapitalize him to improve in an area where the Wild have a big need.  Still as in any other possible trade a question to answer is in the event Kuemper is moved who will be left on the on the Wild’s roster to take his place?

Right now the Wild are thin in the goaltending department.  In Iowa last season the Wild had former 1st round pick Leland Irving and AHL rookie Steve Michalek pulling duty between the pipes.  Both had fairly decent years considering the struggles of the entire team in Des Moines, but because of that it makes it even harder to judge if either one is ready for NHL action as a backup goalie.

Related Story: Goaltender Adam Vay Signed to Entry-Level Contract

Next on the Wild’s goaltending depth chart is Hungarian free-agent goaltender Adam Vay, who signed with the Wild during the IIHF World Championship after an excellent showing in that tournament.  Vay may have played well against some NHL level competition at the Worlds, it’s worth pointing out that he has only played in the lower levels of North American hockey and has spent the last couple of seasons in the Hungarian elite league.  To say he’s NHL ready when he’s come from such a non-traditional path may be a bit of a leap.  Still his numbers have been good everywhere he’s played, so anything is possible.

Brody Hoffman is a bright young talent in the Wild’s system who is down in Quad City ECHL.  While he had a strong season last year he he’s never even seen action in the AHL yet, so it to say he could make the jump to the NHL would be very premature.

Irving represents the most NHL ready talent because he’s actually played in NHL games.  Granted his time in the NHL was very unsuccessful as he posted a GAA of 3.25 and a SV % of .902 in 13 NHL contests.  In addition to that stat line is the fact that Irving is not under contract right now as his one-way AHL deal expired at the end of this season.  So the Wild would have to sign him to a NHL level contract.

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Michalek and Hoffman are just plain not ready for the NHL.  While both show promise, they just don’t have the experience to be effective while up with Minnesota.  Vay however might be the dark horse here to move into a vacated backup spot as he’s got lots of experience playing in lower leagues, and showed that he can hold his own against NHL level competition at the Worlds.  His game against the eventual Silver Medal winners Finland where he stopped 48 shots was a character reveling game, and shows a goaltender with lots of fight.

Outside help is the last option to replace Kuemper if he’s traded.  Logically though if a new player were brought in they would need to be cheaper than Kuemper’s $1 million cap hit.  The Wild are looking to trim salary, or else they’d just automatically re-sign Kuemper for stability’s sake.  So the Wild need to be careful if they get another free-agent, or trade for a backup to get them for the right price.

Next: What Does Bruce Boudreau Add?

As the Wild look to decide Kuempers’ future with the organization they will need to make sure that they account for life after him.  As it stands now the Wild will have their work cut out for them to replace Kuemper as the solution is not exactly very clear.  However, virtually all personnel decisions in the NHL are difficult and it’s not always how to mitigate the risk they cause.  In the case of a Kuemper trade the bottom line is the Wild’s plan wouldn’t end after they move him…if they even decide to move him.