Just a few years ago, new Washington Capitals assistant coach Scott Allen was in Arizona working with the Arizona Coyotes, who were being led by no other than Darcy Kuemper.
Arizona, who had a tremendous PK under Allen, remained in the playoff hunt until late in the 2018-19 campaign. Allen credits that to the newest Capitals netminder.
“We were not a cap team, we were a floor team… the biggest reason we were in the playoff hunt was because of our goaltending,” Allen said regarding the Coyotes. “I was so impressed with what he was able to do.”
The 6-5 netminder brings a lot to the table as he kicks off a new era between the pipes for Washington. After running with the Ilya Samsonov/Vitek Vanecek tandem for two years, general manager Brian MacLellan decided to go outside the system for the first time in over a decade. He inked the 2022 Stanley Cup champion to a five-year deal and brought in Charlie Lindgren to back him up.
“Darcy’s a veteran goaltender who just won the Stanley Cup, had a terrific year, brings a lot of experience and a history of playing really well,” head coach Peter Laviolette said, adding, “Definitely a new look in net for us. And we’re really excited about it.”
The 32-year-old has been one of the most consistent in the league, something the Capitals emphasized heading into free agency with no netminders remaining on the active roster. Kuemper’s .921 save percentage over the last five seasons leads all goaltenders with at least 150 games played. He also ranked fifth in SV% this past season (.921 again) and had a career-high 37 wins through 57 starts.
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The only time in the last four seasons where he saw a dip in save percentage below .920 was in 2020-21 when Arizona sat in the bottom of the league in a COVID-19 shortened campaign. And that wasn’t to blame on the netminding, as he still managed a .907.
“You get that guy that’s proven himself… it’s more than just experience. It’s experience and success,” Laviolette said of Kuemper. “His numbers have been good. He’s big, he covers a lot of net. His numbers say he keeps the puck out of the net. I think too, just the success that he has had. Coaches that I’ve known just said that he’s a difference-maker.”
Beyond his ability on the ice, Kuemper also brings a team-first mentality.
“He’s a great person, first and foremost. His teammates love him. He battles hard in front of them,” Allen said, adding, “I want to see him raise the Cup again in the red, white and blue.”
And, ultimately, Kuemper brings a winning mentality and a good attitude, and he also sets a high standard. Taking all that into account, he is ready to take the Capitals to that next level.
“When I’m asked to play or told to play, I love playing the game. I’ll play as many games as they want or need me to,” Kuemper added. “I just love being in the net and having fun out there,” Kuemper said. “For me, it’s not a set number [of games I need to play]; it’s just whatever I’m needed or called upon to do.”
“I think this is a team that can win it. That’s always a lot of fun to be a part of. Really looking forward to getting started,” Kuemper said. “It’s going to be a short summer, but I can’t wait to get down there and meet the guys.”