Less than 24 hours after Josh Harding lost an epic battle with a wall after getting into tizzy with one of his teammates the Minnesota Wild ended a brief contract dispute with sophomore netminder Darcy Kuemper signing him to the two-year, one-way deal worth $2.5 million ($1.25 AAV) he originally asked for. I’m still reading mixed reports on whether it’s Harding’s ankle or his foot that he broke, but what is being consistently reported is it that Harding is out for months and, to make matters worse for Josh, he was suspended by the team yesterday for injuring himself in a non-hockey related activity. Apparently kicking walls is a non-hockey related activity? Who knew? Frankly I think wall kickin’ should replace the shootout. Everyone lines up and kicks the wall and whichever team has fewer broken feet (or ankles!) wins! Now that’s what I call action! At any rate, there’s no word on how long Harding be suspended, or whether the suspension will kick in immediately or when he’s healthy, but one can assume that if and when Harding does get healthy again it’s in the Wild’s best interests to get him out there as soon as possible. In the meantime, there’s upside here for fantasy owners errywheres, because Kuemper is now locked in as backup to Niklas Backstrom to start the season, but that may change quickly enough as the season gets underway.

When news broke of Harding’s, uh, tough break, I told you to avoid this situation because it was pretty murky, but the waters are clearing quickly now. Barring some miraculous start to the season by Backstrom It’s only a matter of time before this situation evolves into a 1A/1B committee and, when Backstom inevitably falls to injury, the starting job will fall to Kuemps. Harding will come back eventually, but not before Kuemper gets a chance to shine. I don’t expect Kuemper to evolve this quickly into a premier starter but he’s going to be one of the better mid-tier options so long as he gets the starts. Last season Kuemps posted a season line of 12-8-4, 2.43 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SHO over 25 starts battling Ilya Bryzgalov for starts down the stretch. He was a tiny bit shaky at times in the post season but battled to post a line 3-1-0, 2.03 GAA, .913 SV% in four starts. The sample size is small but the lanky 6’5” Canadian should post solid numbers with a slight increase in starts this season. I’d happily draft him as a third goalie with upside. 2015 Predictions: 24-13-5, 2.40 GAA, .915 SV%, 3 SHO in 42 GP

Oh, and as for Breezy, there’s no word on what this does to his pro tryout. With Harding out indefinitely I assume the Wild will go through with the tryout and if he looks good he’ll be signed to a two-way deal and eventually be called up to back up Kuemper when Backstrom gets hurt. In any case, he’s is not worth drafting in any leagues for now.

  1. Gus says:
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    I have a draft in my 12 team, 10 keeper league next weekend and need to draft a goalie with my 2nd pick (11th overall) as only I have one goalie going into the draft (Bishop.) We count W, GAA, SV% and the following goalies will be available to pick from:

    Elliott
    Kuemper
    Khudobin
    Anderson/Lehner
    Scrivens

    I’m in position to win this season and I think the obvious choice is Elliott – but with Harding’s injury, Kuemper signing and Backstrom’s inevitable injuries, might you consider Kuemper as my pick? It would be nice to have a 2nd keeper goalie option and Kuemper should turn out to be a better keeper option than Elliott, but maybe I just need to keep it simple and take Elliott there for the nice peripherals and more steady workflow (at least at first) than Kuemper.

    • JD

      JD says:
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      @Gus: Elliot is definitely your guy. Kuemper is a good guy to draft, but not that early.

  2. SMLV1 says:
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    Rank em – Khudobin, Allen, Kuemper

    • JD

      JD says:
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      @SMLV1: Allen, Khudobin, Kuemper for now, but the first two are nearly even, Allen gets the nod for his upside. Kuemper is going to be backing up Backstrom to start, but if he takes over as the no. 1 he could easily jump up the rankings ladder.

  3. JSF says:
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    Hi JD,

    I have a keeper question for you.

    14-team Yahoo head-to-head league. We count G, A, P, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG, HIT for skaters and W, GAA, SV%, SAVES for goalies.

    We keep 7 players. I am definitely keeping:

    C/LW Galchenyuk
    C Barkov
    C/LW Couture
    D Subban
    G Schneider

    I also have RW, Gaborik LW Hartnell, RW Iginla, G Halak. I was pretty sure I was going to keep Gaborik (looked great with Kopitar in the playoffs…I know he’s an injury risk though) and Halak (most of my league’s teams will keep 2 goalies, so there aren’t too many good goalies left) but I am second-guessing myself.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks

    • JD

      JD says:
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      You’re spot on with Gabby and Halak, I wouldn’t bother with Hartnell or Iggy as keepers, though both should be well worth owning this season.

      • JSF says:
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        Thanks for the input JD. Much appreciated.

        • JD

          JD says:
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          @JSF: Any time!

  4. farcus says:
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    I’m taking over a team in a league where you can keep 1 player from the first 4 rounds and 3 from later rounds, or keep 5 from round 5 on. The keepers cost you the pick from the round they were drafted. So if I kept Malkin I would use my 1st round pick on him, if I kept Subban it would be my 2nd. I’m sure you get it. Here are my options:

    Rd. 1 – Malkin
    2 – Subban
    3- B. Elliot
    5- Suter
    7- Niemi
    8- Parise
    9- Gallagher
    10 – Voynov
    13- Tarasenko

    Right now I’m thinking Malkin, Niemi, Parise, and Tarasenko. But I’m really wavering between Malkin and Subban. Especially considering age and health. What would you do?

    • JD

      JD says:
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      @farcus: Given the choice between Malkin and Subban you absolutely go with Geno. Even if he only plays like 60ish games, he’ll give you way more than Subban will in 82. And if he stays healthly? He’s a top 5 guy. As for the rest of your choices, I’d say they’re spot on.

      • farcus says:
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        @JD: thanks for the validation. I’m very new to fantasy hockey, and don’t pay much attention to the NHL, so I may be back pretty frequently.

        • JD

          JD says:
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          @farcus: No problem mate, and welcome to the fantastical world o’ fantasy hockey! It’s a good time, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Unless you lose. To avoid such outcomes stick with us at Razzball all season, we’ll guide you (hopefully) to lots o’ Ws.

  5. Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey says:
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    so, what’s the projection for backstrom (and in case you didn’t see my note from other post), pavelec’s also?

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