It is not very often that any player can actually look good when their team is taking a 4-0 drubbing to a division opponent in an NHL game, especially when that person is a goalie. This rule was clearly broken by Darcy Kuemper, though, as he played spectacularly for the Minnesota Wild even as they took a beating from the Dallas Stars, and in the process, continued to raise both his profile and potential trade value.
In the loss to the Stars, Kuemper was truly flanked by no support on offense and little on defense, as the Wild took a measly 18 shots and allowed an eye popping 36. Of course, the actual play of the skaters matched these numbers, but the goaltender was not fazed in the least bit, as he showed a great competitive level of play throughout the game, repeatedly making great glove saves and showing above average lateral movement as Dallas took advantage of eight power play opportunities.
For the entirety of the night, Kuemper showed the ability that has made him a revelation since coming up prior to a Jan. 7 game against the Los Angeles Kings after both Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom were sidelined. Since then, the 23-year-old has started six-straight games, compiling a 4-2-0 record with an impressive 94.12 save percentage, and showed the type of potential that a number of teams would love to have between the pipes for the foreseeable future.
This potential is clearly aided by the fact that Kuempler has a 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame that is ideal to both stop pucks with consistency and be able to withstand a grueling 82-game NHL schedule. When this is combined with the aforementioned ability to both stop pucks, move in the crease and compete when his team is being physically man-handled, it would be a wonder if team’s are not ringing up Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher‘s phone for his services.
Certainly Fletcher will not be making a trade while both Harding and Backstrom are out with an injury, but he would be foolish to not pull the trigger after the two come back. This is because they both have shown an ability to start with consistency at the NHL level this season and in the past, and are signed past the end of the current season.
Additionally, Minnesota is not the most offensively astute of the NHL team’s — they rank 26th in the league in goals scored per game — so there is no doubting that they could float Kuempler out as part of a package for a second line scorer, such as Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. Making a move like this would appear to be a must to win the Stanley Cup, although it would also come at the expense of an up-and-coming goaltender.