Coyotes’ goaltending options have grown in past year
LAS VEGAS — Antti Raanta’s performance against the Vegas Golden Knights was the most encouraging sign in a disappointing 0-2 start for the Coyotes.
Raanta made 40 saves (he was originally credited with 42 but the league later changed that number) in a 2-1, overtime loss at Gila River Arena on Saturday. Raanta must still prove he can withstand the grind of the NHL season as a first-time No. 1 goaltender, but his debut calmed some concerns about his ability to replace Mike Smith.
Raanta is only under contract through this season, so it will serve as an evaluation of his future in Arizona. He is the not the only piece in the Coyotes’ goaltending puzzle, however.
Adin Hill, the team’s second, third-round pick in 2015 (No. 76), continues to develop with Tucson of the American Hockey League. The Coyotes added a couple more prospects this summer when they signed Minnesota-Duluth freshman Hunter Miska to an entry-level deal in August, and acquired Merrick Madsen, along with forward Nick Cousins, in a trade with Philadelphia for forward Brendan Warren and 2018 fifth-round pick in 2017.
Madsen returned to Harvard for his senior season, but Miska is in Tucson, competing for playing time with Hill and Marek Langhamer over the next month. Langhamer has an out-clause in his contract, which he can exercise in November.
General manager John Chayka said Langhamer has an offer to play in the Czech league. The Coyotes would still own his rights if he took that offer. Chayka thinks that might be a better option for Langhamer than returning to the ECHL if he doesn’t remain in Tucson. For now, the three will compete for playing time with the Roadrunners.
“The challenge for these guys is to treat every practice like a game,” Coyotes prospect goaltending coach Corey Schwab said. “With the AHL schedule, we don’t play a lot of games out of the gate so whether it’s two or three guys, nobody is getting a chance to play a lot. Once we get into more games, each guy will get the opportunity to show he can consistently give us a chance to win every night.”
Once this season ends, the Coyotes would presumably try to sign Madsen. Ideally, that would giving them at least four options to compete with Louis Domingue for the backup spot next year in Arizona, Schwab said. Domingue, however, is also in the last year of his contract.
“The goal all the time is to be able to have young guys push the guys that are in the NHL. That’s how it evolves,” Schwab said. “There’s always somebody looking to take somebody else’s job. It’s nice to have that coming from within versus us trying find that somewhere else.”
Chayka identified goaltending depth as another box to check on his long to-do list this summer. If Madsen signs, the Coyotes would have six goalies competing for four spots between the NHL and AHL, and Schwab also noted that 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 183) Erik Kallgren is off to a good start with AIK in Sweden’s first division.
The goalies Chayka acquired view the Coyotes as a good opportunity.
“I really thought about it; I took a few weeks to make a decision and talked to a lot of people, but I thought I was ready for the change,” said Miska, who attended training camp and was assigned to Tucson on Sept. 29. “It’s a young organization and I thought I had a great opportunity to play up here. They want me playing games in Tucson so we’ll see how it goes. Nothing is guaranteed. You’ve got to perform and put in the work every day.”
If Madsen signs next summer, the Coyotes will have plenty of options and competition.
“It’s a luxury to have more guys,” Schwab said. “l’ve never seen a team complain about having too many guys at one position.
Coyotes at Golden Knights
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station
Records: Coyotes — 0-1-1. Golden Knights — 2-0.
Injury report: Coyotes — D Jakob Chychrun (knee) is on injured reserve.
Knights — D Clayton Stoner (lower body) is on injured reserve.
Scouting report: Coyotes — The Coyotes assigned C Dylan Strome to Tucson of the AHL on Monday and recalled F Mario Kempe. … F Jordan Martinook (lower body) is day-to-day.
Golden Knights — Vegas is just the third NHL expansion team to start 2-0, joining the 1967-68 Oakland Seals and Los Angeles Kings … Forward James Neal has three of Vegas’ four goals this season and his shot from the point late in regulation on Saturday in Glendale set up the Golden Knights’ only other goal … The Knights’ next seven games are at T-Mobile Arena, starting with this game, which is their home opener.