Darcy Kuemper chooses Capitals in free agency after winning Stanley Cup

Darcy Kuemper won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche this spring. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)
Darcy Kuemper won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche this spring. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals didn't necessarily need to insert themselves into the free-agent goaltending market, but they emerged with a prize anyway.

Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper, who backstopped the Colorado Avalanche to their championship just weeks ago, has landed with the Capitals on a five-year agreement worth $26.25 million.

He will be the highest-priced netminder to switch sweaters in free agency, signing on with the Capitals for $5.25 million on an annual basis.

Washington paved the way for the move at the NHL Draft, trading Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils in a bit of a surprise move. Brian MacLellan's assertion that the team could make improvements in net was solidified further when Washington neglected to issue a qualifying offer to former first-rounder Ilya Samsonov, who wound up with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a one-year deal.

Kuemper is now the future and present for the Capitals, and has quietly put together a solid resume at the NHL level. The 32-year-old has a career .918 save percentage in 299 career appearances split between the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, and Avalanche.

Kuemper had one of his best seasons in the friendly confines of Colorado, finishing his first and only season with the Avs with a .921 save clip. His numbers weren't quite as strong in the postseason, but he apparently battled through a very serious eye injury in parts of 16 appearances.

The Avalanche had already filled the hole vacated by Kuemper, trading for Alexandar Georgiev on the draft floor in a swap with the New York Rangers. He will pair with Kuemper's backup from last season, Pavel Francouz.

Washington has had some of the poorest netminding over the last two seasons, and since its Stanley Cup-winning starter, Braden Holtby, exited in free agency. The Capitals are one of 10 teams to fail to produce total goaltending better than .900 over the last two seasons combined.

Kuemper appears to be a strong option to remedy that.

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