Just a few weeks ago, the Kings’ goalie depth essentially started with Jonathan Quick and ended with Jack Campbell. (Jeff Zatkoff has been relocated into the “In Case Of Emergency, Maybe Consider Another Option” category.) It’s long been an organizational weakness of the Kings, with the team frequently landing at the bottom of any list ranking goaltender depth. Lack of depth at the position harmed not only the Kings’ season, but the Ontario Reign’s, as well.
But the front office has turned their attention to the men in between the pipes, and in just a week’s time, have started the work of restocking the pipeline. First, they took a chance on Sault Ste. Marie’s Matt Villalta in the draft, then as free agency opened, signed Notre Dame stand-out Cal Petersen after he chose not to sign with Buffalo, who drafted him in 2013.
While the organization kept saying they were content to have Jack Campbell back up Jonathan Quick this year, earlier today, Rob Blake hinted that he was still entertaining the idea of adding another goalie to the mix. At the end of a long day of free agent signings, Blake came through on that, as well, signing former Minnesota Wild back up Darcy Kuemper to a one year contract.
The LA Kings have agreed to terms with goaltender Darcy Kuemper with an AAV of $650,000.https://t.co/I2Mf23dLsB— #LAKings (@LAKings) July 1, 2017
Kuemper’s contract is incredibly reasonable -- just $650,000, which doesn’t break the bank, and leaves plenty of cap space for additional signings (several key RFAs, including Paul LaDue and Nick Shore, still need contracts). Most importantly, the Kings have an NHL-ready back-up for Quick, rather than taking a chance on Campbell, who excelled last year in the AHL but is still unproven at the NHL level.
Kuemper’s seen limited use as a back-up in Minnesota behind the workhorse that is Devan Dubnyk, starting just 17 games last season. (So competing with Jonathan Quick for ice time shouldn’t be a new feeling for Kuemper.) He had a career high of 28 starts in 2014-15, when he found himself with the bulk of the starts before Dubnyk was brought on board.
His numbers aren’t necessarily anything to write home about -- he was 8-5-3 last season (.902 Sv% and 3.13 GAA) and 41-34-14 overall (.910 Sv%, 2.60 GAA) in his career. But the Kings have a track record of turning backups into near all-stars, so hopefully some time with Bill Ranford will help Kuemper address any deficiencies in his game as well as learn about the way that the Kings will play in front of him.
And Kuemper seems to love playing the Kings -- he’s 3-1-2 in his career against them, including one shutout. Having him playing for us, instead of against us, has to be a positive.
Kuemper at Staples Center: 1.96 GAA / .949 Sv% in 245 Min— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) July 2, 2017
Kuemper overall vs #LAKings: 2.33 GAA / .924 Sv% in 386 Min
With five goalies (Quick, Kuemper, Campbell, Zatkoff, and Petersen) under contract with the Kings, the pipeline is finally well stocked for the foreseeable future. Campbell gets another year in Ontario to hone his skills, Petersen presumably gets the net in Manchester, and Quick gets an experienced back-up who could use a bit of a fresh start.
Also, because it’s important: Darcy Kuemper has two very good dogs.