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2022 NHL Free Agency

After Vanecek Trade, Talk Of Kuemper To Capitals Heating Up

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Could the Capitals pursue Darcy Kuemper?

The Washington Capitals took their “first step” toward finding a new No. 1 netminder to lead the way in net for 2022-23, as the team chose to move Vitek Vanecek in exchange for draft picks. And, following that trade, it seems Darcy Kuemper to D.C. is becoming more of a possibility.

On Friday, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun told TSN that Kuemper and the Capitals are a “possible match.” Kuemper will hit free agency on Wednesday, as the Colorado Avalanche were unable to afford to keep him. Instead, they traded for Alexandar Georgiev and will run with him and Pavel Francouz in goal.

Kuemper is coming off an outstanding season that saw him go 37-12-4 with a .921 save percentage and 2.54 GAA through 57 games. He posted a .902 SV% in 18 games while helping lead the Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup since 2001.

The 32-year-old is a proven starter who has been able to maintain consistency and come in clutch with big saves and impressive stretches, and he also knows how to win. In 299 career games, he has a .918 SV% and has only posted a save percentage of under .915 just four times in his 10-year career, and just once over the last four seasons. That season was in 2020-21 when he played just 27 games for the last-place Arizona Coyotes.

READ MORE ON WHN: Why Did Capitals Keep Samsonov Over Vanecek?

Looking at the Capitals’ situation, general manager Brian MacLellan said that the team is “jumping into the fire” and is ready to explore the goaltending market and “all avenues,” from trade possibilities to free agency. MacLellan also said he knows that the cost will be high for a top goaltender. When asked if the team has space to work with to sign a goaltender to a substantial contract, he said the team could do that “right now” if they had to.

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, the veteran is looking for a deal similar to Philipp Grubauer’s six-year deal he signed in Seattle with a $5.9 million AAV. And from the sound of it, Washington isn’t afraid to roll the dice to sign a quality netminder to a deal.

Kuemper would join Ilya Samsonov, the only netminder on the team’s roster following the Vanecek deal. Samsonov is an RFA, and his camp will touch base with the Capitals soon on an extension, per MacLellan.

Overall, it seems like it would be a good fit. He brings a winning attitude and a good skill set, and he could also be a mentor to Samsonov. Plus, a legitimate No. 1 may make all the difference for the District.

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