Antti Raanta or Darcy Kuemper: Arizona Coyotes Dilemma

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Antti Raanta Darcy Kuemper
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 26: Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) takes a shot on Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) during the NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Arizona Coyotes on March 26, 2019 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When starting goaltender Antti Raanta sustained a season-ending injury in late November, the Arizona Coyotes had to rely on backup Darcy Kuemper.

Antti Raanta vs Darcy Kuemper

Most teams would feel fortunate to have two equally-skilled goalies, and that may just be the case next season when both Raanta and Kuemper may share the space between the posts.

Antti Raanta’s Injury Woes

When Raanta was given the starting role last season, he only appeared in 47 games due to lower-body injuries. Head coach Rick Tocchet was a bit disappointed that Raanta didn’t come into training camp in better shape.

Whether that was the main reason he turned up injured or not, his much-needed services were not available and that hurt the team as well as his aspirations of finally becoming a starting goalie.

He only appeared in 12 games this season with some respectable numbers. He accumulated a .906 save percentage and 2.88 goals against average. As luck would have it Kuemper was also hurt and that led to AHL standout goalie Adin Hill being called into emergency service.

This was after the Coyotes rewarded Raanta with a three-year contract worth $12.75 million in April of 2018. Having missed 105 possible games (of course that’s an overstatement since no goalie plays all 82 games in a season) or 64% it makes the team wonder how reliable he may be going forward.

Is it a conditioning issue? Will the surgery bring him back at full strength to withstand the rigors of an NHL schedule? All questions which remain unanswered at this juncture.

Obviously, the team wanted him to be their starting goalie and paid him accordingly. He has started to skate with the team and take some shots, but it remains doubtful that he will be able to make a comeback this season.

Enter Darcy Kuemper

When Raanta went down and Kuemper was back in the lineup, it has been impossible to remove him. Many have stated that Kuemper has single-handedly carried the Coyotes on his back towards the hunt for the playoffs.

It’s very difficult if not impossible to deny that statement. Kuemper has come up huge in so many games including the vital game Tuesday night versus the Chicago Blackhawks. He literally robbed Jonathan Toews and Brendan Perlini not once but twice from close in.

It helped keep the Coyotes right behind the Colorado Avalanche who possess the last wild-card spot by virtue of a tiebreaker as they have a better goals scored ratio versus goals allowed.

Kuemper ranks fifth in the NHL for goalies playing 40 games or more. He has a .922 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average.

The Starter Next Season

As it stands right now even though Raanta was hoped to be the starter, Kuemper has stolen his thunder with his exemplary play. How can you deny allowing Kuemper the starting role when he is playing lights out?

You can’t.

Another theory could be why not have two starters? After all, if Raanta recovers from his injury and is back to his game and can stay relatively healthy, he deserves to play. Not many teams can boast that they have two starting goalies.

With the fatigue involved in travel and more and more back-to-back games having a rested goalie could reek some significant rewards when the season starts winding down. Having two fresh and competitive starters can also be very beneficial once the playoffs begin.

It will be intriguing to see how the Coyotes handle the situation next season.

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