With training camp set to open next week, unsigned Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper is threatening to sign in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League if the Wild doesn’t sign him to a one-year, one-way contract, his agent said Monday.
“Basically, Chuck and I are stuck,” agent Jeff Helperl said of negotiations with Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher. Fletcher did not comment on the negotiations.
Helperl wants a one-year deal where Kuemper would be paid his NHL salary whether he plays in Minnesota or with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Des Moines. The Wild is offering a two-year deal where in the first year Kuemper would make a significantly lesser salary during the time he plays in Iowa.
“It comes down to Darcy has to play somewhere this year,” Helperl said of the KHL option. “Minnesota, they’re stuck on giving Darcy a two-way deal and I think Darcy deserves more. … By no means are we shooting for the moon at all. I just want to get a one-way contract and get Darcy playing more games, and wherever that’s going to be, it’s going to be.”
Helperl had a chance to file for arbitration July 5 but did not. That would have resulted in a neutral arbitrator awarding Kuemper, 24, a contract if one couldn’t be agreed upon prior.
Veteran goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding both say they’re healthy and ready for camp. Since Kuemper doesn’t require waivers to get to Iowa, Helperl knows his client could be destined to start in the minors with Backstrom and Harding in the fold.
“Chuck keeps reminding me over and over again how healthy they are and how good they’re looking right now, so what am I supposed to do from that?” Helperl said.
So last weekend, Helperl began talking to teams in the KHL, where Kuemper could make significantly more money than if he were to play in Iowa.
“Well, he’s going to play somewhere, so it could happen,” Helperl said. “We’ll see when camp starts and see where we’re at. … I last spoke to Chuck I think last week and I don’t think we moved very far ahead.”
Helperl wants Kuemper on a one-way deal because it theoretically would give him the best opportunity to make the team. Most teams loathe paying players their full NHL salaries in the minors.
Last season, when Harding had complications from multiple sclerosis and Backstrom was playing hurt, Kuemper was recalled and helped keep the season from unraveling. He then sustained the first of two concussions, the second in Game 7 of the first round against Colorado. Before that, he entered the series with the Wild in an 0-2 hole and backstopped the Wild en route to the team evening the series. Kuemper played 32 games, including six in the playoffs.
Wild players are skating together daily in Edina until training camp. Helperl is not sure if Kuemper will take part : “We’ll see how talks go from now to then.”
Unsigned winger Nino Niederreiter arrives in Minnesota on Wednesday. He is expected to take part in the informal skates and hopes to agree to a contract in the next week so he can report to camp on time.