Coyotes acquire Darcy Kuemper from Kings for Rieder, Wedgewood
The first domino of the Coyotes trade deadline plan fell on Wednesday afternoon. Arizona traded forward Tobias Rieder and backup goalie Scott Wedgewood to the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper was set to become an unrestricted free agent, but Coyotes general manager John Chayka said the sides were working on a two-year extension that a source told Arizona Sports would carry an average annual value of $1.85 million.
Kuemper, 27, had 15 starts in 19 games for the Kings this season, going 10-1-3 with a 2.10 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. In 121 games with Minnesota and L.A., he has a 51-25-17 record with a 2.52 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
This year’s save percentage is by far the best of his career. Chayka believes that comes from Kuemper reaching goaltending maturity, but Kuemper also handed out some credit.
“I had some really good work with the goalie coach in L.A., Bill Ranford, who really helped me find my game and tweak it to the point where I felt really comfortable just going out and playing.
“The main things have been ice awareness, getting my looks in, and narrowing down my stance a little bit to allow myself to move a little bit more freely in there.”
Chayka said the move is unrelated to the team’s negotiations with starter Antti Raanta. The team still plans to make every effort to re-sign Raanta, but Chayka wanted more.
“The logic is that our team, when we’ve gotten consistent, quality goaltending, has played very well,” Chayka said. “For us, this gives us two very good goaltenders that we feel confident can do an above-average job at stopping the puck.”
Coyotes starting goalies did not play more than 55 games the past two seasons and Raanta has played just 35 of the team’s 59 games this season due to injuries.
“I think you need two goalies now to win in this league,” Chayka said. “Antti is one and now we feel like we’ve got the second.”
Rieder can become a restricted free agent after this season. He had a career-high 16 goals last season and a career-high 37 points the season before, but he had eight goals and 19 points in 58 games this season.
Rieder was a favorite of former coach Dave Tippett, but it was clear new coach Rick Tocchet was not as enamored of his play. He was a healthy scratch for the first time this year on Feb. 6 against the Winnipeg Jets.
Tocchet said he wanted more from Rieder.
“It’s not so much his scoring,” Tocchet said. “He’s got to get inside the dots. He just hasn’t really done much.”
Two seasons ago, Rieder endured protracted contract talks before signing a two-year contract with an average annual salary of $2.225 million during training camp. The Coyotes will retain 15 percent off his salary. His agent, Derrin Ferris, said Wednesday that a fresh start would be good for Rieder.
“Yes, it was needed,” Ferris said. “This trade is good for Tobi and the Coyotes. Tobi loved his time in Arizona.”
The Coyotes acquired Wedgewood on Oct. 28 for a 2018 fifth-round pick after backups Louis Domingue struggled and was subsequently waived. In 20 games, Wedgewood went 5-9-4 with a 3.45 goals against average and a .893 save percentage.
Kuemper is expected to join the team at its morning skate on Thursday before it faces the Calgary Flames at Gila River Arena.
With five days remaining before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, Chayka reiterated a long-held stance that he doesn’t expect any major moves before the deadline, but he is always willing to listen.
“We have some players on our roster that I can’t fathom a team making an offer that would make sense for us to entertain moving them,” Chayka said. “We think we’ve got a good young group. We think we have some really good veteran leadership, proven winners, guys that add a lot of value to our team and our group and help out our younger players.
“In that sense, I’m not trying to derail anything or change course. Our vision continues to remain the same. It’s my job to be disciplined and really dedicated to what we’re trying to accomplish and do here. To make any large-scale moves to drastically alter our course are not a part of my plans.”