The Minnesota Wild had three goaltenders on hand Friday when they hit the ice for the first time at training camp. But they weren't the three general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo were banking on all summer.
Darcy Kuemper arrived at camp after signing a two-year, one-way contract worth $2.5 million. Also present was Ilya Bryzgalov, who went 7-1-3 down the stretch last season with the Wild, wasn't re-signed, but was invited to camp on a tryout contract this week after Josh Harding broke his right foot in an off-ice incident.
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Harding, who's expected to miss at least two months, has been suspended by the Wild. He was expected to compete with Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom for the starting job.
Kuemper, who was 12-8-4 after Harding and Backstrom were lost to season-ending injuries in 2013-14, was happy to be back.
"It was a longer summer than I expected it to be, but I'm super-excited to get it done and to be back here," he said after practice at Xcel Energy Center. "Now that it's over, I'm just looking forward to the season and trying to pick up where we were last year and build off the success we've been having lately."
Kuemper admitted to being nervous while being unsigned as training camp approached.
"I was definitely getting a little anxious," he told the Wild website. "I didn't want to miss camp, or part of camp. Fortunately we got it done when we did. It would have been nice to do it a few days earlier, but I'm here now and looking forward to getting back out there with my teammates."
Coach Mike Yeo was relieved to have Kuemper back.
"I’m very pleased that we got him signed," Yeo said after practice. "I’m very happy for him, I’m very happy for us, and now it’s time to get to work. It looks like he's been taking very good care of himself. Tomorrow we'll get him on the ice. That will give us a good chance to see where he's at."
Kuemper, 24, can be returned to the minors without having to clear waivers, but he's intent on showing he's worthy of being the NHL starter.
"I'm definitely in camp to try to prove to the coaches and management that I can be that guy, and I'm going to do the best I can to earn that spot," he said. "But I know I'll have to earn it, and I'm here to work hard."
Kuemper wasn't on the ice Friday, but Bryzgalov was.
"I just came here to help the team get through the camp," the 34-year-old said.
Bryzgalov, who said he hadn't received any offers before the Wild called this week, was asked whether he has any idea whether he'll have a contract at the end of camp.
"I have no control," he said.
Yeo said Bryzgalov showed the effects of a lack of ice time this summer.
"I think he's tired right now," Yeo said. "He's honest; I don't think there's been a lot of ice time that he's been partaking in. He's definitely going to need to get it back quickly."