Home SPORT Capitals sign goaltender Darcy Kuemper as NHL free agency begins

Capitals sign goaltender Darcy Kuemper as NHL free agency begins

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The Washington Capitals signed goaltender Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million deal on Wednesday, filling a desperate need with a Stanley Cup champion on the first day of free agency in the NHL.

Kuemper, who helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup last June, posted a 2.54 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in the regular season. The 32-year-old suffered an eye injury in the Western Conference Finals but returned to support the Avalanche in the Finals.

“Super excited for the new opportunity,” Kuemper said Wednesday during a videoconference. “It’s a team that can win. It’s always a lot of fun to be part of it. I’m really looking forward to starting. The summer is going to be short, but I’m looking forward to going there and meeting the guys.

Colorado could have made an effort to keep Kuemper, but opted to go a different direction in net, trading for former New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev last week. The Avalanche also re-signed several free agents to lucrative deals to keep their core intact.

Kuemper didn’t reveal how many other teams expressed interest in him, but said once he knew Washington was interested, he immediately pictured himself in the district.

“That’s where I wanted to go from all the options, and I’m really excited that we were able to do something,” Kuemper said.

Kuemper said several players in Washington have texted him to welcome him. Part of the Capitals’ appeal was a still intact core that has experience winning the Stanley Cup.

“He had a lot of good years, a lot of good performances,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He seems like a good person, good character, good team guy. I think that’s exactly what we needed for next year.

Washington also completed its goalie tandem on Wednesday, signing backup Charlie Lindgren to a three-year, $3.3 million deal. Lindgren, 28, played five NHL games last season with the St. Louis Blues and was 5-0-0 with a 1.22 goals-against average and 1.22 save percentage. 0.958. He spent most of the season with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League.

“We liked his performance last year,” MacLellan said. “I know it wasn’t a lot of games, but we think there are advantages in goal, so we gave them the three-year term because it was competitive for him, and I think that “There were a lot of teams looking at him, and he was coming up to a good number, and he had good performances last year but limited games. We think he can continue to play well.

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The Capitals were looking for not one but two goaltenders through free agency. They traded Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey last week and opted out of making a qualifying offer to Ilya Samsonov on Monday.

The Samsonov decision was a bit of a surprise. MacLellan spoke to reporters last week and insisted that Washington plans to make a qualifying offer to Samsonov.

Instead, 25-year-old Samsonov hit the open market on Wednesday and signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he looks likely to support Matt Murray.

As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, the Capitals believed Samsonov might have seen his 2022-23 salary rise from $3 million to $3.5 million had the team made a qualifying offer. It was more than Washington wanted to spend on Samsonov in a backup role.

Goaltender Pheonix Copley also left the Capitals organization, signing a one-way contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

“I feel comfortable with what we have now,” MacLellan said. “I think we had two good goalkeepers [in Vanecek and Samsonov]. The youngsters were good. I guess it’s a little frustrating that I wish one of them had taken the #1 spot. And it looked like one or the other was going to, but they didn’t. never really done, and I think we ran out of time to wait for it.

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The goaltending market changed quickly early Wednesday as Jack Campbell signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers. Campbell was considered a possibility for the Capitals before signing Kuemper.

Washington also made a surprise trade Wednesday night, acquiring winger Connor Brown from Ottawa for a 2024 second-round pick. Brown, 28, had 10 goals and 29 assists last season in 64 games with the Senators. Brown, who has one year left on his three-year, $10.8 million contract, will become an unrestricted free agent next season. Brown should be a right-winger in Washington’s roster who could see time on the front line.

The Capitals have taken some steps to strengthen their blue line, first signing defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $800,000 contract. Gustafsson played 59 games for the Chicago Blackhawks last season and recorded three goals and 15 assists.

Gustafsson, a left-handed defender, is expected to play with Trevor van Riemsdyk in the third pairing. Washington needed to fill a roster void after defenseman Justin Schultz, who became an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, signed a two-year contract with the Seattle Kraken.

The Capitals also signed forward Marcus Johansson to a one-year, $1.1 million deal on Wednesday night, locking in another depth up forward. Washington signed Johansson at the trade deadline in March. He has produced three goals and three assists in 18 games.

The Capitals also added a few players to two-way deals, which means the player receives reduced pay while in the AHL. Defenseman Matt Irwin, 34, has re-signed with the team on a one-year, two-way contract. Finnish striker Henrik Borgstrom, 24, has also signed a one-year, two-way contract. The Blackhawks bought out the final year of Borgstrom’s contract, which included a $1 million deal, on Tuesday. Borgstrom had seven points in 52 games with the Blackhawks last season.

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