Why Re-Signing Antti Raanta Was A Smart Move For The Arizona Coyotes

On June 23rd, 2017, The Arizona Coyotes shocked the hockey world with a trade. Many wondered why a team in the midst of a rebuild would trade away a high draft pick and a young defenseman for a backup goalie and a top-six center. After almost a year since the trade, it is looking to make sense.

The New York Rangers used the Coyotes draft pick to draft Lias Anderson 7th overall and defensemen Tony DeAngelo is having a decent season split between the Rangers NHL and AHL rosters/teams. Derek Stephan, however, has not looked out of place on his new team. The 27-year old forward has recorded 13 goals and 40 assists totaling up to 53 points in 78 games.

He has done all that could have been asked of him from the struggling Coyotes and he has proved that he can be a player that could help bring the Coyotes out of the bottom of the league standings and back into contention. It is, however, the backup goalie that might have been one of the most important parts of the trade. Arizona needed a new goaltender that could take on a strong workload and help lead the team to victory and that is exactly what they got with Antti Raanta.

Trevor Hagan/The Associated Press

In a season that has been disappointing for the organization and its fans, Antti Raanta has been one of the parts of the Coyotes season that has not been a disappointment. Antti Raanta has not spent too much time as a starting goalie in the NHL. Having previously served as a backup in the AHL as well as for the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, his only starting goaltending jobs in the NHL came at times when the starting goalie was injured.

But in those brief stints, he displayed why he deserved to be a starting goaltender. After playing 30 games for the Rangers last season, he posted a save percentage of .922 and a goals-against average of 2.26. Those statistics sold Raanta to the Coyotes enough to make a huge trade that many thought would damage their rebuilding process.

Raanta has not disappointed. In 45 games, he owns a save percentage of .930 and a goals-against average of 2.24. This season, Antti Raanta has been playing on a team that has been in the bottom of the standing for the majority of the season.

Rick Scuteri/The Associated Press

This would be a challenge for any starting goalie to perform well under these conditions. But Antti Raanta did one better, not only did he play strongly in net, but he performed exceptionally in his time tending the crease. Raanta has been one of the best goalies from a statistical standpoint all season.

Antti Raanta ranks third in the entire NHL in terms of Goals Against Average and Save Percentage. This is an extremely impressive statistic that many people overlook but should not be.  The Coyotes spent most of the season dead last in the league standings but as of late, they have been a strong team, and if they can continue playing as they have as of late then next season they can fare a lot higher in the standings then they did this season.

The fact that Antti Raanta has recorded a 2.24 goals against average and a .930 save percentage while playing for a bottom five team is mighty impressive, but just imagine how much better fit he would be on a stronger team. Putting a goalie with the statistics that Antti Raanta has displayed this season would strengthen any contending team.

David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

The Arizona Coyotes signed Antti Raanta to a three-year contract extension. Raanta will be earning $4,250,000 per season for the next three years ($12,750,000). The 28-year-old goaltender has started 45 games posting a 21-16-6 record to go alongside 3 shutouts in that span.

With a projected $24,469,724 in cap space going into next season, the team is given the opportunity to re-sign the few restricted and unrestricted free agents they have in their system like Max Domi, Kevin Connauton as well as Luke Schenn. And because they do not have a lot of restricted and unrestricted free agents that they need to sign, they have the ability to sign free agents this offseason that can help the team try and continue their recent success into the 2018-2019 season.

Signing Antti Raanta was definitely the right move for the Arizona Coyotes. Raanta bested some of the best goalies in the world in terms of save percentage and goals-against average. And although some may argue that goalies like Frederik Andersen and Andrei Vasilevskiy played more games then Raanta, Raanta still played 45 games and was on a team in dead last for almost the entire season while they were on some of the top contending teams all year long.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

He is clearly playing elite level hockey and if the team continues to play the way they have been as of late next season, then Antti Raanta can continue next season the way he has played as of late this season then the Coyotes are sure to finish a lot higher in the standings. 

Overall with a contract that is not going to significantly diminish, the Coyotes hopes of signing the top free agents around the league and their own current restricted and unrestricted free agents in their system, it is perfect for the financial future of the team as it will not harm their efforts of strengthening their team in other areas. And given Antti Raanta’s recent play, the contract is perfect for both the team and the player as it puts Raanta in the same financial position as goaltenders such as Ben Bishop, Cam Talbot and Jake Allen and it means that the Arizona Coyotes are getting a top level goalie without having to break the bank.

Antti Raanta has proved this year that he is the goaltender that can help turn things around for the Arizona Coyotes and the Coyotes management made the right decision by signing him to a contract extension.

(Featured Image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

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