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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Kuemper had a tough final season with the Wild in 2016-17, posting a career-worst .902 save percentage and ugly 3.13 GAA in 18 appearances as Devan Dubnyk’s backup. That was enough to write his ticket out of town, but the 27-year-old promptly caught on in Los Angeles to serve the in same role behind Jonathan Quick. Perhaps the change of scenery can get Kuemper back on track; he should appear in at least 20 games for the Kings if he returns to form, and perhaps more if Quick’s groin continues to bother him. The Kings were able to turn mediocre veteran Peter Budaj into a fantasy-relevant player for a while when Quick was injured last year, so there’s some hope they could do the same for Kuemper if that situation arises again.
With Devan Dubnyk having seized control of the Minnesota net, Kuemper settled comfortably into a backup role last year, posting ratios that correspond closely to his career averages. Still only 26 years old, Kuemper is on a one-year deal, positioning him for free agency next year and a potential payday from a goalie-needy team if he can elevate his game this season. He’s likely going to have to make the most of limited opportunities, though, as Dubnyk’s a workhorse who started 66 games last year.
Kuemper saw the lion’s share of starts for the Wild at the beginning of last season before Devan Dubnyk came out of nowhere to become a Vezina Trophy candidate. After Dubnyk's acquisiton, Kuemper rarely saw the ice at all, resulting in him turning in a mostly unspectacular 2014-15 that included a 2.60 GAA and a .905 save percentage over 31 games. At just 25 years old, Kuemper could still improve, but with Dubnyk above him on the depth chart and with the stretch of consecutive starts he went on last season, playing time will come at a real premium. Barring an injury or a run of poor form by Dubnyk, Kuemper shouldn't be recommended as much more than a streaming option versus weaker opponents.
Kuemper is in a strange spot in Minnesota. In one sense, he's the third-string goaltender behind Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, who are both on one-way contracts. In another, he's the heir apparent behind two guys who miss time because of injury or illness, and he'll likely to see a significant number of games this season. General manager Chuck Fletcher has already stated that he's OK carrying three goaltenders on the team this season, and after an impressive performance from Kuemper in limited time last year, it seems a foregone conclusion that he'll be the man in Minnesota sooner rather than later. But in reality, nothing is guaranteed. Backstrom is a capable starting goaltender and Harding was outstanding last season, leading the league in both save percentage and goals against average prior to missing the last half of the season following a change to his treatment for multiple sclerosis. He's a must-own as a handcuff to the other Wild goalies, but he's not really a starter yet. By the time it's clear that he's the starter in Minnesota -- when that time comes -- it's probably going to be too late to grab him off waivers.
Kuemper is the heir-apparent to the back-up role in Minny now that Matt Hackett is out of the picture. And given the uncertainty of Josh Harding's multiple sclerosis, this giraffe-like (6-5, 210) twinetender with quick reflexes and three NHL starts under his belt could find himself suddenly thrust into ice time with the Wild. Remember his name and be prepared to scoop him off the wire when he is inevitably called up from the AHL. Keeper leaguers with deep rosters should already have him stashed away.
Kuemper really surprised last season. What started as a starting gig in the East Coast league soon turned into a two-month timeshare with starter Matt Hackett in the AHL. He cooled off in February and March, and then went down with a season-ending injury in early March. But we saw enough to walk away thoroughly impressed. Kuemper is 6-4 and athletic, and he should have the backup's job in the AHL all to himself in 2012-13. He could be NHL-bound in a three or four years.
Kuemper is an outstanding goalie prospect who, in 2010-11, racked up 45 wins and 13 shutouts complemented by a .933 save percentage and 1.86 goals-against average as a member of the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. All totals were league highs, and it led to the Wild signing him to a three-year, entry level contract with the Wild last May. Kuemper, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, could prove to be a nice value pick for the Wild if he can replicate the success in the minor leagues.