GLENDALE, Ariz. — Longtime backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper needed more than a change of scenery. He needed a couple of changes of sceneries.
After serving as the backup to Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and Devan Dubnyk throughout his tenure with the Wild, Kuemper left the Twin Cities in free agency, signing a contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He was the backup there, too, and once again with the Arizona Coyotes following a rather inconsequential midseason trade.
But last season, Kuemper finally got his moment in the spotlight. He started a career-high 55 games games for the Coyotes, posting a 27-20-8 record and emerging as the go-to guy following an injury to usual starter Antii Raanta.
That was enough for Kuemper to earn a lucrative contract extension, and he hasn’t look back since. He entered Saturday’s game against his former team with a 7-4-0 record this season to go along with an impressive 1.82 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
Did coach Bruce Boudreau think he had it in him?
“He was a pretty good backup with us,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think (his struggles) were the reason that he wasn’t back with us. He was going to be too expensive for a backup for what our salary cap was. I know (former general manager Chuck Fletcher) really liked him, and I’m sure they would’ve re-signed him if the price was right.”
Meanwhile, Kuemper’s former teammates have enjoyed his success from afar.
“You sometimes just need a little change of scenery,” Dubnyk said. “I always thought he was a great goaltender for us.”
Nobody knows the importance of a change of scenery more than Dubnyk. He revitalized his career after the Coyotes traded him to the Wild once upon a time.
“You sometimes just need an opportunity somewhere else,” Dubnyk said. “He’d been with us his entire career to that point, and obviously he wasn’t playing regularly. He got an opportunity somewhere else and it was up to him to go play, and that’s what he did. He earned himself everything that’s come to him. He deserves this, and it’s good to see him playing we
As for whether the Wild can take advantage of the fact that they know Kuemper very well, Boudreau doesn’t think that’s going to have much of an impact.
“He is playing an awful lot better than he was when he was playing with us,” Boudreau said. “I don’t thinking knowing his weaknesses is a thing because I think they’ve changed. If he still had these weaknesses, he wouldn’t be having the numbers he’s had in recent seasons.”
Marcus Foligno missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.