Once again, Darcy Kuemper has to stake his claim in an NHL goaltending tandem.
The Colorado Avalanche netminder, acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in a trade Wednesday, was picked up to share the net with Pavel Francouz. They’ve never met, Kuemper said, but he’s excited to get that out of the way.
“I'm sure we’ll hit it off. I like to get along with anyone,” he said. “I’m sure it will be great.
“I can’t wait to work together.”
In spite of being a Western NHL lifer thus far, Kuemper said he doesn’t know anyone on the Avalanche roster that well. Several players reached out to him after the trade that sent Conor Timmins, a first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick, to Arizona.
Kuemper said he was aware of trade rumors but tried not to pay attention Wednesday. The Avalanche found themselves in need of a goaltender and almost all of the free agents with starter experience had signed by the late afternoon.
The Colorado organization had to offer some of its defensive depth to get the 31-year-old goaltender but went for it.
“Those are the opportunities you dream of,” Kuemper said.
Kuemper took over and lost the starting job with the Minnesota Wild, the team that drafted him in the sixth round in 2009. After a brief backup stint in Los Angeles, he took over for injured Antti Raanta in 2018-19 and appeared in a career-high 55 games with a .925 save percentage. He topped that number the next season and impressed in the playoffs, where the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round before being shelled by the Avalanche.
He “tweaked” his MCL last season during his only game against Colorado and missed more than a month, but returned to finish out the regular season. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native went on to represent Canada at the IIHF World Championship. He had a 2.17 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage as Canada won gold.
In 121 games in Arizona, Kuemper’s record was 55-48-15. He joins a team that thinks it’s in a championship window.
“The expectations are high and it’s a great roster,” Kuemper said.
He’ll inevitably be compared to Philipp Grubauer, who departed in free agency hours before the Timmins deal went down. Kuemper’s current deal, signed in Arizona, will expire at the end of 2021-22. He said he hasn’t discussion an extension yet.
Left winger Darren Helm, 34, who’s spent the past 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings, signed a one-year contract with the Avalanche. The 6-foot, 192-pound veteran had three goals and five assists through 47 games last season. He won the Stanley Cup in Detroit as a rookie.
“Darren is a high-energy, competitive player who brings veteran leadership to our team,” Colorado general manager Joe Sakic said in a team release. “He helps our depth up front, is good on faceoffs and is an effective penalty killer."
Saad in St. Louis
Brandon Saad signed with the St. Louis Blues as a free agent after one season in Colorado. He agreed to a five-year contract worth $22.5 million.
The Avalanche added two forwards to the system Thursday, signing Dylan Sikura and Stefan Matteau to one-year contracts. They’re two-way deals, according to multiple sources.
Sikura, 26, appeared in six games for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020-21 and 30 for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights. He had 22 points in 30 games with Henderson. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound center saw two postseason games against the Avalanche.
Matteau, 27, appeared in 18 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and scored once. He’s the son of former NHL player Stephane Matteau.