Michal Kempny was once on top of the world.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, playing a major role in the most crowning achievement in franchise history, and it seemed the budding defenseman had all the head of steam he needed, opening doors to a four-year deal.
But four years and a few bad breaks with injuries later, he is back to square one.
The Seattle Kraken have given the 31-year-old defenseman an opportunity for revival, making Kempny's signed one-year contract official on Monday. He is set to make the league minimum, $750,000, accepting a reduction after his previous deal worth $2.5 million.
Kempny was reduced to a goal and an assist in 15 games last season with the Capitals, while logging seven assists in 24 AHL games with the Hershey Bears on a conditioning stint.
It was also during that previous four-year span where Kempny, a native of Hodonin, Czech Republic battled with staying healthy. After getting top pair minutes on the Caps blueline with five points in 24 postseason games in 2017-18 and helping exorcise playoff demons with a five-game Stanley Cup Final triumph over Vegas, he turned in a respectful 25 points in 71 games in 2018-19.
It could have been more. Kempny suffered a torn hamstring in April, a freak injury to end his season as he was hauled down to the ice in a game against Tampa Bay.
Then, the tidal wave came. Next season, he dealt with surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon he suffered during the offseason, requiring 6-8 months of rehab. He returned in 2020-21 for a two-game conditioning stint in Hershey, logging an assist but still missed the entire NHL season.
Why did he only get two games in Hershey?
During a stop in play, an ice shoveler tripped and landed into Kempny's knee. Kempny suffered a grade 2 MCL strain.
"(Expletive) happens," Kempny posted immediately after on Instagram.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound blueliner will now try to accelerate his comeback in the Pacific Northwest, joining former Capitals teammates Justin Schultz, Andre Burakovsky, and Philipp Grubauer with 63 points in 247 games of NHL experience on the blueline with Washington and Chicago Blackhawks. Kempny also has six points in 30 career postseason games, paired frequently with John Carlson during the Capitals run to the Stanley Cup title four years ago.
A mid-season trade acquisition that year from the Blackhawks, Kempny also blasted his first career playoff goal, a memorable one, in Game 1 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning.
Kempny now will battle for a spot on the Kraken blueline that has added a free agent signee in Schultz, returns Vince Dunn, Jamie Oleksiak, Adam Larsson, Carson Soucy, and Will Borgen, and has prospect Ryker Evans working to make his NHL debut.