Wild's Niederreiter spurns Russia; will Kuemper?
By Chad Graff St. Paul Pioneer Press ST. PAUL -- The Wild have kept Russia's Kontinental Hockey League from stealing one of its young forwards; now Minnesota's NHL team is trying to keep a young goalie from defecting. Nino Niederreiter, a 22-year...
By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL - The Wild have kept Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League from stealing one of its young forwards; now Minnesota’s NHL team is trying to keep a young goalie from defecting.
Nino Niederreiter, a 22-year-old restricted free agent, has rejected “a huge KHL offer” to continue negotiating with the Wild, his agent, Andre Rufener, wrote in an email. The sides hope to have a deal in place before camp starts Sept. 18.
The situation with the Wild’s only other restricted free agent - goaltender Darcy Kuemper - remains uncertain.
With veterans Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding already under contract, the Wild would like Kuemper, 24, to sign a two-way deal that would pay him less money whenever he plays with Des Moines of the American Hockey League. Kuemper’s agent, Jeff Helperl, wants to negotiate a one-way contract, meaning Kuemper would earn the same salary regardless of where he played.
If Kuemper doesn’t agree to a contract, he may consider signing with a team in the KHL.
“Darcy is seeking a one-way, one-year deal at a reasonable number,” his agent, Jeff Helperl, said in an email.
Typically, teams and agents can agree to deals based largely on the contracts signed by similar players. But there are few, if any, situations comparable to Kuemper’s.
On one hand, Kuemper is a young goalie with only 32 NHL regular-season games under his belt who could find himself stuck behind two veterans. On the other, Kuemper helped save the Wild’s season by playing well while Backstrom (abdominal) and Harding (multiple sclerosis) were unavailable.
Without Kuemper, the Wild might not have made the playoffs, let alone won their first playoff series since 2003. Kuemper appeared in six playoff games, recording a .913 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said early in the summer that he was confident both Backstrom and Harding would be healthy for the start of training camp, and his negotiations with Kuemper’s agent appear to back that up.
If Kuemper does sign with the Wild, coach Mike Yeo would have the unenviable task of balancing a roster with three goalies.
Without Kuemper, however, the Wild enter the season with Backstrom, who didn’t appear in a game after Jan. 30, and Harding, who didn’t appear in a game after Dec. 31, as their goalies.
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