LA Kings acquire goaltender Darcy Kuemper from Washington in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois

The LA Kings have acquired goaltender Darcy Kuemper from the Washington Capitals in exchange for forward Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Straight up trade, no salary retained on either side.

The Kings went into this summer in search of a starting goaltender. They also had a player in Dubois, who was a marquee acquisition last summer, who did not have the season that was hoped for in 2023-24. Kuemper is a known quantity from his time here back in the 2017-18 season and he has developed into one of the better goaltenders in the league since that time. Kuemper has three seasons remaining at a cap hit of $5,250,000, running through the end of the 2026-27 season.

Instant Analysis
I mean. Wow.

Let’s start with Kuemper. The Kings have acquired one of the league’s steadiest goaltenders from the last three seasons. Kuemper had a down year, statistically, in 2023-24 with Washington but he’s ranked 15th in the NHL in goals saved above average over the last three seasons, at 20.6 per Natural Stat Trick. From 2020-23, Kuemper ranked 10th in the league at over 30 GSAA and during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons specifically, he was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, ranking 8th in goals saved above average.

We know Kuemper here in Los Angeles, for a short time at least, when he really developed his game in a backup role to Jonathan Quick in 2017-18. Kuemper then went on to Arizona and Colorado where he became an All-Star in 2020 and a Stanley Cup champion in 2022. This is a good goaltender. A damn good goaltender. The numbers speak to that. Kuemper played behind a rebuilt Washington team season, a team that posted, by far, the NHL’s worst numbers in terms of chance supression among playoff teams. The Capitals surrendered more scoring chances and high-danger chances than any team to reach the playoffs. Kuemper’s time with Washington during the 2022-23 season and with Colorado and Arizona before that was excellent. The numbers say that Kuemper has been one of the league’s better netminders and it’s not surprising the Kings viewed him as a longer-term solution in goal. I’m not saying this is the league’s best goaltender, but he’s got a track record of being in the top third of NHL goaltenders over a four-year span. That’s a good bet to bounceback.

On to Dubois.

I think Dubois will have a better year next year. He’s a good player. But man, it just didn’t work here. For whatever reason, the fit was not there. Dubois was brought in to be a difference maker, to give the Kings three dominant centers down the middle of the ice, which would create matchup problems against the other top-end teams in the Western Conference. That plan did not unfold as it was intended to. Dubois did not mesh with Kevin Fiala, as was the plan, and while the Plan B for Fiala was very successful, the Plan B with Dubois did not result in a successful season.

There are also contracts to discuss here. Dubois had seven seasons remaining as the highest-paid forward on the team. It’s a tricky situation, because that’s a long-term commitment and a bounceback was was needed, especially to deliver on that contract. This trade mitigates that risk, while also filling the starting goaltender position for the Kings for the next three seasons.

By my rough projection here, based on the information available still via CapFriendly, that leaves the Kings with $22,586,667 in salary-cap space going forward. That number accounts for seven forwards (Kopitar, Fiala, Kempe, Danault, Moore Laferriere, Thomas), five defensemen (Doughty, Anderson, Gavrikov, Englund, Clarke) and two goaltenders (Kuemper, Rittich). The Kings have holes to fill going forward, but they’ve added a goaltender and freed up more than $3 million in cap space with which to do so.

Forward Quinton Byfield is a restricted free agent who will command a big commitment this summer. The Kings still have Matt Roy and Viktor Arvidsson as key unrestricted free agents, players who might have a better chance of working out the numbers in Los Angeles following this transaction. Much more to follow.

From the team’s official release –

The LA Kings have acquired goaltender Darcy Kuemper from the Washington Capitals, in exchange for forward Pierre Luc Dubois.

Kuemper, 34, returns to the Kings after appearing in 33 games for the Capitals this season, finishing the campaign with a 13-14-3 record and one shutout. The netminder is a veteran of 389 NHL regular season contests over parts of 13 seasons with the Minnesota Wild, LA Kings, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals, including a Stanley Cup Championship with Colorado in 2022. 

The 6-5, 215-pound goaltender has maintained a 2.61 GAA and .914 SV% with 31 shutouts, while assembling a 178-135-46 career record in the regular season. Through 34 career postseason appearances, Kuemper has recorded a 17-10 record with a 2.72 GAA and .908 SV% and two shutouts. During the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kuemper posted a 10-4 record with a 2.57 GAA and .902 SV% with one shutout.

Kuemper last suited up for the Kings in the 2017-18 campaign, where he went 10-1-3 with three shutouts and a 2.10 GAA and .932 SV% in 19 games.

Originally selected by Minnesota in the sixth round (161st overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Kuemper played his junior hockey for the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Tending goal for the Rebels for three seasons, Kuemper finished his WHL career owning a 94-60-17 record with a 2.48 GAA and .914 SV%, 19 shutouts, and numerous league-wide accolades. At the close of his final season with Red Deer, Kuemper was named as both the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year, the WHL Player of the Year, and selected to the WHL First All-Star Team after posting a league-best 1.86 GAA .933 SV% in the 2010-11 campaign.

A native of Saskatoon, SK, Kuemper represented Canada in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship in 2018 and 2021. In 15 total games played over those two tournaments, Kuemper maintained a 2.30 GAA and a .898 SV% with one shutout and captured a gold medal in 2021 in Latvia.

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