Unless you’ve been following the Arizona Coyotes this season, you probably haven’t noticed the few bright spots on the team this season. Clayton Keller was an early hero for the team, even when they only won two of their first twenty games. Kevin Connauton has caught fire recently as one of the hottest scoring defenseman in the league since the beginning of February. Recently the team has played significantly better, going 10-3-2 since February 8 in attempts to drag themselves out of last place in the league.
One man who leads the team above all others in saving his team from last place is goalie, Antti Raanta. Raanta joined the team over the summer from a trade with the New York Rangers after former Coyotes starter Mike Smith was traded to the Calgary Flames. Coyotes’ GM John Chayka hoped he found his next starting goalie, and so far Raanta is proving Chayka’s gamble was a good one.
Raanta is in the top five for both save percentage and goals against average among goalies who have started at least 30 games this season. His .924 SV% puts him behind only Pekka Rinne, John Gibson, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, while his 2.43 GAA puts him behind Fleury, Tuukka Rask, Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck. Raanta is putting up these numbers despite his team being ranked 25th in the league for goals against. Despite the Coyotes having a losing record, Raanta has kept steady at a record of 15-15-6. If the Coyotes had a capable backup earlier in the season, the team wouldn’t be finding itself so far down the standings.
Injuries hampered Raanta during the beginning of the season, as he missed almost all of October and parts of November with various lower body injuries. When he has been free of injuries he has performed better than ever in his career. Even though Raanta is starting more games than ever, he is posting his best season statistically since his second year as a backup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Although Raanta is once again injured, having sat out the last four games with a lower body injury.
Already Chayka is focused on extending Raanta past his current contract. His current contract ends this coming offseason, but both camps are discussing an extension that will keep Raanta in Arizona for future seasons. With the backup position already filled due to the acquisition of Darcy Kuemper at the trade deadline, an extension with Raanta would solidify the back-end of the Coyotes roster for at least the next few seasons.
This Kuemper trade/extension is not expected to impact Antti Raanta’s status with ARI. While ARI has gotten calls from other teams, ARI and Raanta’s reps have talked about getting an extension completed post-deadline. He wants to stay; ARI has indicated they want to keep him.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 22, 2018
In both goal and in the defensive end the Coyotes have it figured out. Despite a bad start, the defense is solid. They are in the middle of the league in shots allowed, and have not let up many goals when they have their starting goalie. It was only when Raanta was injured that the revolving carousel of goalies including Louis Domingue, Wedgewood, Adin Hill, and Marek Langhamer caused the team to break down defensively.