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Coyotes filled holes with early trades, stacked Roadrunners at deadline

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) makes the save on Vancouver Canucks center Brandon Sutter in the first period during an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: John Chayka, Coyotes GM

When the NHL trade deadline was approaching, the Arizona Coyotes checked off their two key goals for the team: get a solid backup goalie and improve their AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners.

The Coyotes traded forward Tobias Rieder and goaltender Scott Wedgewood to the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Darcy Kuemper a week before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 21.

Arizona got Kuemper, who the Coyotes signed to a two-year extension a day after the trade, to pair him alongside its starting goalie, Antti Raanta. Before the trade, when Raanta was off the ice, the Coyotes allowed 102 goals in 1,748 minutes. Wedgewood took the majority of the minutes and had a -12.02 goals saved above average.

“For us with a young group, if we lose our starter, we (didn’t) have a competent backup,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf show Wednesday. “In an effort to try and short up and mitigate some of the risks of injury, we went out and got a guy who really filled a hole for us and allows us to have two strong goalies.”

In 19 games playing for the Kings, Kuemper gave up 35 goals, 2.10 a game, while owning a .932 save percentage.

“Darcy Kuemper has had a heck of a year in LA,” Chayka said.

The Coyotes have allowed 200 goals this year and are giving up the fifth most goals allowed a game (3.17).

“For us, early on in the season we saw what happens when you don’t have two quality goalies that can go in and play well for you,” Chayka said.

Chayka believes that Kuemper has the potential to be a very good goaltender in the NHL. This season, Keumper has a +9.16 goals saved above average.

“He certainly has the makings of being a great goalie and hopefully the timing works out here,” Chayka said.

According to Chayka, trading for Kuemper is not a backup plan for the team if Raanta decides to leave at the end of the season.

Raanta is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and he is averaging 2.46 goals allowed per game. To go with this, Raanta has a .923 save percentage, the second highest of his career. He also has a +11.01 goals saved above average.

While the Coyotes are sitting far out of the playoff picture with a league worst 18 wins and 46 points, the Roadrunners are looking to make a late run in the playoffs.

Not only did Arizona want to improve its NHL team, but it also wanted to get some pieces to help its AHL team in Tucson.

“Going into the deadline you set goals, and one of the goals that we wanted to do was strengthen Tucson,” Chayka said. “They’ve had a great year, pretty much start to now they’ve been number one in their division and have shown a lot of growth and progress. The coaching staff has done a great job. We have a lot of top young prospects down there that are really going to be a big part of what we’re doing here.”

The Roadrunners are on top of the Pacific Division at 29-16-3 with 62 points. The team is sitting three points in front of the San Diego Gulls.

“We felt like we have a great group down there,” Chayka said. “If we could add some key pieces then we could set them up for a good playoff run.”

The organization traded away center Ryan Kujawinski Monday at the NHL Deadline to get forward Jordan Maletta and forward Carter Camper from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Maletta has four assists this season and Camper has scored 13 goals and 29 assists.

Then in a another deal that day, the Coyotes also acquired forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie and defenseman Trevor Murphy from the Nashville Predators. Murphy has 18 assists and 8 goals while Labrie dished out 7 assists and scored on five goals before being traded.

“That group down there is growing together,” Chayka said. “They’re learning how to win, they’re creating the right culture down there that we want to continue to bring up here.”

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