One of the priorities for Oilers GM Ken Holland is to add a goaltender to his NHL roster. Holland re-signed netminder Mike Smith to a two-year contract on Saturday, but is in the market for a longer term starter. In an ideal world, Smith will serve as a leader for the Oilers and their backup goaltender during the duration of his contract.
As reported here multiple times, Holland’s top choice was pending UFA Chris Dreidger of the Florida Panthers. Unfortunately for Holland, Driedger elected to sign a three-year deal with the Seattle Kraken and was their expansion pick last Wednesday.
The Oilers have interest in pending UFA G Linus Ullmark, but won’t be the only team in on him. Veteran Jaroslav Halak could be a short-term option, while Holland is expected to speak with Jonathan Bernier and Petr Mrazek should they hit the market. The Carolina Hurricanes, however, are working to re-sign both ahead of Wednesday.
Free agency isn’t the only way to add a goaltender, however. There is the trade market, which could have multiple options on available. One goalie who is 100% on that market is Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes have turned their attention to rebuilding, and have moved out players like Connor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson over the last few days. Kuemper, along with Phil Kessel, Christian Dvorak and others, is on the block for GM Bill Armstrong.
‘The Fourth Period‘ reported on Sunday that trade talks continue in Arizona on Kuemper, Kessel, Dvorak, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz.
Here is what the publication wrote regarding Kuemper, who has one season remaining on his contract.
Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong still has more work ahead of him, as he continues to be engaged in trade talks involving some of his other players.
Forwards Phil Kessel, Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Newly-acquired forwards Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel are also believed to be available.
Kessel, who is entering the final year of his deal, was paid his $5 million signing bonus on July 1 and is owed $1 million in salary the rest of the season. The Coyotes are willing to retain a portion of his deal, primarily for salary cap purposes.
Like Kessel, the Coyotes are willing to retain part of Kuemper’s final year of his contract. He comes with a $4.5 million salary cap hit, but is owed $5.5 million in salary. The Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers are among the teams that have expressed interest.
Kuemper is coming off of a down season by his standards. He went 10-11-3 for a struggling Coyotes team, posting a .907 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA in 27 games. In 2019-20, Kuemper was outstanding with a 16-11-2 record, a .928 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA in 29 games. He also led the Coyotes to a surprising series victory over the Nashville Predators in the ‘Play-in’ round in the Edmonton bubble.
While Kuemper’s play has suggested a high-level starting goaltender, one number that sticks out is his games played. Kuemper has dealt with injuries in each of the last two seasons that have greatly impacted his availability. His last true ‘workhorse’ season was 2018-19, when he played in 55 games for the Coyotes.
On paper, Kuemper is a massive upgrade on both Smith and Mikko Koskinen. The risk in this deal, however, is that Kuemper’s health could be a factor.
In terms of a trade package, the Coyotes are collecting prospects and picks like a hobby right now. Edmonton’s 2021 first round pick would have to be included in the package, as would Mikko Koskinen. Koskinen and Kuemper carry identical $4,500,000 cap hits, but Kuemper earns $5,500,000 in real money in 2021-22.
Koskinen would be a $1,000,000 savings for the Coyotes in real money, wouldn’t add any term to their books, and wouldn’t impact the cap. From an Edmonton standpoint, shedding Koskinen allows them to take on Kuemper without impacting their cap space.
Is the 2021 first, Koskinen, the rights to Cooper Marody and a prospect like Markus Niemelainen enough to get Kuemper to Edmonton? That’s to be determined.
Keep an eye on this situation as we barrel towards free agency on Wednesday.