Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Borscht, Comrade Kuemper?

Taking dangerous paths in a negotiation, and angering Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, is not the way for 24-year-old, third-year-pro goalies to endear themselves to an organization. Or its' fans.

You think that Darcy Kuemper's representation would have figured that out by now. Fletcher knows that there are a lot of goalies out there, goalies that would jump at the chance to play one year (if that) in the AHL, in order to get a shot at an NHL job next summer. Or, sooner, given the health histories of both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.

But, Kuemper's representation has been adamant on getting Kuemper an NHL salary for playing in the AHL. Frankly, Kuemper probably wouldn't be spending the holidays in Des Moines; but with the Wild up against the salary cap, Fletcher is trying to save every dollar of cap room possible. With Kuemper on a one-way (NHL salary only, regardless of where he plays) contract, the Wild wastes salary cap room every day that Kuemper is down 'on the farm'. With a two-way contract, Kuemper gets a lower (maybe 1/3rd of his NHL salary) rate of pay, but at least he plays here.

And, did I say, that this two-way is for this coming season only? The second year, under Fletcher's offer, was at the NHL rate, regardless of where he plays. So, we are only talking about ONE SEASON.

Kuemper's agent, Jeff Helperl, has threatened to take his client's talents to the KHL, where 'he can play every day', as his agent has been quoted locally as saying. Oh, he'd play every day, alright. But if he gets injured (as goalies frequently do: remember last season's two concussions, Darcy?), good luck getting decent medical care 6-9,000 miles away from home. Not to mention the travel arrangements (ask the widows of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv tragedy). And the food (Russian). And the bleak, Russian winter existence.

Kuemper's home town of Saskatoon would look like Nirvana, compared to some of the stops on the KHL's circuit. The fact that Kuemper at worst is a year away from a full-time NHL gig, you would think, would be more than enough to keep him in the organization which, up to this point, has nurtured him and developed him to the point where he is a serviciable NHL goaltender.

Fletcher is perceived as playing hardball by Kuemper's camp. Hardly. These are the rules that both sides have agreed (through the CBA) to live by. The fact that the Wild did not negotiale earlier (at least publically) is partly their own fault; but, due to the continuing shedding of the dead weight on the Wild roster (Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner), the roster is in flux virtually right up to the home opener Oct. 9 vs. Colorado. With that as a background, Kuemper is now the single biggest roster problem on the Wild, now that Nino Niederreiter has agreed to a 3-year, $8M contract.

So, the question is now this: What does Kuemper do? Does he tell Helperl to accept Fletcher's offer, and report to camp this coming week? Or, does he pack his bags, get a Russian visa, and head out for the Wild, Wild East?

Which Admirals team do you want to see in October, Darcy? Milwaukee? Or Vladivostok?

It's your choice, Darcy Kuemper.