After an offseason of speculation on his future with the Arizona Coyotes, Darcy Kuemper has agreed to a two-year, $9 million contract extension with the team. Kuemper posted a 27-20-8 record with a 2.33 goals against average and .925 save percentage in a career high 55 games played last season. The 29-year-old Kuemper was the backbone of the team and nearly led Arizona to the playoffs.
Missing out on that second wild card spot by only five points. Impressive season by a squad that seemed to have angered the hockey gods as most of the team was injured at one point or another during the season. Including Darcy Kuemper himself who missed a handful of games throughout the season.
As a critic, I must admit that this seems awfully familiar. I think it’s only appropriate to compare Kuemper’s performance and contract to Antti Raanta given the similarity. Both goaltenders were career backups before coming to Arizona – had a breakout season as a starter that was somewhat limited due to injuries, playing in a career high number of games despite that, received a contract extension after said breakout year for very similar dollar amounts – elevating the Coyotes to a higher level of play and competitive streak. Seriously, look at their numbers side by side.
During the 2017-2018 regular season, Raanta posted a 21-17-6 record with a 2.24 goals against average and .230 save percentage in 47 games. Raanta’s numbers are slightly better when comparing both goaltenders season as a starter, but only slightly. So let’s take a slightly deeper look at both goaltenders NHL careers.
The 30-year-old Raanta has played in 153 games over six NHL seasons. He has posted a record of 73-46-15 with a 2.34 goals against average and .920 save percentage on 4,050 shots against. Compare that to Kuemper who’s played in 186 games over the course of seven NHL seasons.
During this time, he has posted an 81-61-27 record with a 2.50 goals against average and a .916 save percentage on 5,118 shots against. Once again, ridiculously similar numbers. Raanta has a better goals against average and save percentage while Kuemper has more wins, faced over one thousand more shots and played in 33 more games than Raanta.
Now let’s compare their contracts. Raanta was signed to a three-year, $12.75 million extension following the 2017-18 season. Kuemper is making $250,000 more annually while Raanta was awarded an extra year. Given the similar situations, both goaltenders found themselves in before signing their extensions, I must say I prefer Kuemper’s contract as it comes across like Coyotes general manager John Chayka learned from his previous contract and offered less term as a result.
This just brings my mind to one question. What is John Chayka’s plan for the Coyotes goaltending moving forward? Antti Raanta, at the time of writing, is still considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Adin Hill was sent down, Eric Comrie was claimed off of waivers and Darcy Kuemper was extended all within the span of only a few days. I think it’s obvious to all parties that Antti Raanta isn’t 100% ready to go, but what’s the game plan here?
Adin Hill played admirably last season when called upon. He was even rewarded with a one-year extension in the offseason. He had a great camp and played very well throughout the duration of preseason action.
Why send him down just to claim Comrie? Don’t get me wrong, Eric Comrie is a fine young goaltender. He is also the half brother to Coyotes great Mike Comrie, so I love the little Marvel style easter egg for the fans. Even though I know that’s not why Chayka made the claim. Just let me have my nerdy fun.
If you ask me, I think one of two things is happening. I’ll start with the one I lest think will happen. Darcy Kuemper may have been extended to add potential trade value.
Which sounds better to a team in need of a goaltender? An expiring contract or a player with a couple of controllable years? I think logically, Chayka could get a better return for Kuemper with a new contract.
However, I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Antti Raanta is entering his third convective season with injury issues. It would only make sense that Chayka is putting himself in a position to cut his losses and is likely to be placing Raanta on the trade block, making him available to any team that will give back a decent return for a chance at Raanta’s once great talent.