Arizona Coyotes agree to 3-year extension with Antti Raanta
The Arizona Coyotes have agreed to a three-year extension with starting goaltender Antti Raanta, the team announced Friday.
Raanta was slated to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He has a salary of $1 million this season.
“I’m thrilled to sign a new contract with the Coyotes,” Raanta said via a team press release. “The Coyotes believed in me and gave me an opportunity to prove that I could be a starting goaltender in the NHL. I’m very grateful for this and can’t wait for next season. We have a great young team here and I’m very excited about our future in Arizona.”
Despite minor injuries at the beginning of the season and a setback due to a car accident, the 28-year-old has appeared in a career-high 46 games this season. Raanta’s 2.24 goals against average is the third-best mark in the NHL and his .930 save percentage is tied for the second best.
Since Jan. 1, Raanta is first in the league in save percentage (.942) and goals against average (1.83) among goalies who have played at least 15 games. He is tied for second with three shutouts.
Arizona acquired Raanta and center Derek Stepan in a draft-day trade that shipped defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft to the New York Rangers.
General manager John Chayka said recently that Raanta’s recent body of work was large enough to prove he could be a No. 1 goalie. Once the Feb. 26 trade deadline passed, talks heated up.
“When we acquired Antti last summer, we believed that he had the talent and desire to become an elite starting goaltender and he certainly proved that this season,” Chayka said in Friday’s release. “You can’t be successful in this League without an outstanding No. 1 goaltender and now we have that with Antti.”
Raanta’s agent, Kevin Epp, told Arizona Sports last month there was interest on both sides to get a deal done rather than test the market.
“When they traded for him it was to be the No. 1 and then obviously the injury and the setback was difficult for everyone,” Epp said. “It’s easy for teams and organizations to sour on a guy because they are not getting the results but it’s not really based on merit. Getting injured, I don’t think anybody planned that. It’s great that they stuck with him and it’s even better that he’s come back strong and healthy and almost started like it was a new season.”
Epp said Chayka just wanted to be sure Raanta wanted to stay in Arizona before pursuing a deal.
“He wanted to make sure that Antti wanted to stay a part of the Coyotes and do what they’re doing and build with them,” Epp said. “I said ‘yeah, nothing has changed from our end.’ He wanted to make sure we were on the same page. He didn’t want to try and keep a guy and then he signs somewhere else.”
Epp acknowledged how few opportunities there are for goalies to become starters.
“Especially on a young team where you feel like it’s your team,” Epp said. “For him, ‘they got me to be the guy and I’m going to grow with this team.'”