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Goalie’s Duel: Stalock or Kuemper?

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In the upcoming expansion draft, the Wild are required to expose a goalie. Unfortunately, the only goalies that qualify for the expansion draft are Alex Stalock, Darcy Kuemper, and Devan Dubnyk.

To make matters worse, NHL rules dictate that the exposed goalie must either be an RFA with a qualifying offer on the table, or be under contract for the 2017-18 season.

In short, the Wild currently only have one goalie that they can expose: Dubnyk.

That clearly isn’t going to happen, and the easy path forward is simple: sign one of Kuemper and Stalock and expose them.

The problem here is twofold:

  1. Neither Kuemper nor Stalock seem to be an NHL-caliber goalie on a regular basis, with each in turn being great and awful.
  2. Whatever contract the Wild give to the goalie, they’re likely stuck with, as it’s unlikely Vegas picks them in the draft.

So the question facing the Wild is: which goalie do they encumber themselves with, and how bad does the contract need to be?

The second question is manageable. But rather than trying to sign a bad goalie to a good contract, the Wild should be trying to sign the better goalie to a good contract. There are extenuating circumstances in Kuemper’s case, of course. Supposedly talks got heated before Kuemper signed his last contract, with Darcy wanting a one-way contract (meaning he earns the same regardless of whether he plays in the AHL or NHL).

So, let’s dig into this: Kuemper v Stalock.

With only 62 games in the NHL, Stalock’s career Save Percentage is an underwhelming .911. Darcy Kuemper has roughly half a season’s more experience with 91 games played, but his save percentage is.... also .911.

So there’s no separating them there. Creating some space doesn’t get any easier when you limit yourself to looking at even strength, where both netminders have a Sv% of .918.

On the penalty kill, where a goaltender could make a name for himself, neither goalie impresses. Stalock’s .868 is infinitesimally better than Kuemper’s .865 . Stalock also stands only marginally above Kuemper on the power play; .898 to .880. This last category doesn’t matter significantly, but it’s perhaps more evidence that Kuemper doesn’t stand out over the long run.

There is, in fact, only one category in which Kuemper outshines Stalock, and that is in career shutouts. Kuemper has 8 (one in the playoffs) while Stalock has 0.

Decision Time

Based on the raw numbers, Stalock seems like the clear winner, right?

and yet, give the choice between the two, I’m going Kuemper. Here’s why.

Stalock’s career numbers are better, but here are his season sv% numbers since he became a regular in San Jose: .932, .902, .884. Kuemper’s numbers in the same timespan: .905, .915, .904.

Neither goalie has played much in the most recent season, and frankly there aren’t enough games played to know for certain. That said, Kuemper’s numbers are more consistent from season to season. Secondly, Boudreau has seen both goalies in practices now, and there’s a reason Stalock is in the AHL and not Darcy.

Thirdly, Kuemper is younger. Not by much, but by some. In addition, Kuemper’s 5v5 High-Danger Sv% is slightly better; .79 compared to .75.

Ultimately, the Wild don’t want either goalie to be who they need to rely upon. That said, assuming they’re worth a relatively equal contract (and at this point they should be), the old adage about the devil you know is perhaps advice worth following for Chuck Fletcher.

But Chuck, please no NTC’s or NMC’s.