Following Saturday’s acquisition of Scott Wedgewood from the New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka couldn’t have been any more clear in his reasoning for flipping a fifth-round pick to land the 25-year-old netminder.
“We just need someone to stop the puck,” Chayka said. “Whoever stops the puck, gets the net.”
It really wasn’t an oversimplified explanation, either, because Chayka is right on the money. Outside of some better puck luck, there’s nothing the Coyotes could use more than for someone to step between the pipes and make the stops necessary to give Arizona its first win of the season. Through 11 games, the Coyotes boast the third-worst save percentage at 5-on-5 — .890 — and there’s not a team in the league who has fared worse at all strengths. All told, Coyotes netminders have combined for a .862 SP.
Granted, one could point to the injury to Antti Raanta, Arizona’s off-season acquisition, as the reason the goaltending has been this poor. Raanta has been on the shelf with a lower-body injury since Oct. 14 and missed the first game of the campaign, as well. With Raanta out, the starts — and the struggles — initially fell on Louis Domingue, who was waived and subsequently demoted to the AHL after Wedgewood was brought aboard. In seven games, Domingue turned in an .889 SP at 5-on-5, the ninth-worst mark of any goaltender to play at least 150 minutes at five-a-side this season. It’s not as if the Coyotes had a better option, either, as Adin Hill managed an equally poor .885 SP.
So, with both netminders struggling, it only made sense for Arizona to scour the trade market for any help in goal. And while it’s not a lengthy history of top-tier NHL performance, Wedgewood has a resume that suggests he can help the Coyotes in Raanta’s absence.
In four appearances for the Devils in 2015-16, Wedgewood, a third-round pick in 2010, managed a 2-1-1 record, .957 SP and 1.24 goals-against average to go along with one shutout. What Chayka specifically pointed to with Wedgewood, though, was his play in the AHL. Across 110 games, he’s posted a 51-36-9 record, .908 SP and 2.35 GAA. That’s slightly better than Hill’s .908 SP and 3.06 GAA in 46 games in the minors and outshines Domingue’s .902 SP and 3.09 GAA in 71 appearances for the Coyotes’ farm team.
“We thought it was necessary to get someone in here who has some experience and had some success at the American Hockey League level…and through some analysis and some of our pro scouts we identified him,” Chayka said. “(Wedgewood) is 25 years old, so he's got some experience and he's had some success, and we think he's got a good chance to come in and have success at the NHL level."
Wedgewood will get his first chance to prove that he can supply the help the still winless Coyotes so desperately need on Monday night, too, as he’ll make the start against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Now, all that said, don’t go thinking the Coyotes are the only NHL team that could use help in goal. Here are four other clubs who could be looking to bolster their crease:
Pittsburgh Penguins: The volume of back-to-back games is crippling the Penguins right now, in part because Matt Murray can’t really be expected to play both halves. Already, we’ve seen Pittsburgh’s Antti Niemi experiment go up in smoke and the Casey DeSmith era didn’t get off to the best start, either. There’s always the possibility of bringing Tristan Jarry into the mix, but it wouldn’t be too much to suggest the Penguins look outside the organization for backup help. Some experience could go a long way. Maybe something could be worked out with the…
Toronto Maple Leafs: Of all netminders to suit up this season, Frederik Andersen’s .886 SP at 5-on-5 is 10th-worst in the league, and Toronto’s Achilles' heel throughout the campaign has been their inability to keep pucks out of their own end. That hasn’t meant Curtis McElhinney has seen much action, though. He’s only suited up once, posting a .906 5-on-5 SP in a win over the Detroit Red Wings. If Toronto doesn’t want to use McElhinney, maybe the Penguins could use him, a move which would also make room for Calvin Pickard, a perfectly good backup option who was picked up from the Vegas Golden Knights, to get some starts for the Buds.
Montreal Canadiens: Hard to believe there needs to be any discussion about goaltending woes in Montreal, but here we are. Carey Price has the 11th-worst 5-on-5 SP (.888) and Al Montoya, his backup, hasn’t been any better, rolling along at a .864 clip. Granted, Montoya has some good experience as a backup, but if he isn’t going to get the job done, the Canadiens might need to look to the AHL, where they have Zach Fucale and Charlie Lindgren, or the open market to get some stops and turn things around in Montreal.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t looked like himself. Despite being one of the most consistent netminders of this era, ‘King Henrik’ has been picked apart to the tune of a .910 SP at 5-on-5 and bloated 3.11 GAA. The thing is, though, the Rangers don’t have another great option. Ondrej Pavelec is a stop gap for New York, but you get the feeling he’s primed to be Niemi Part 2 — a reclamation project that won’t quite work. Pavelec has gone 1-3-0 in his four starts with a .904 SP at 5-on-5, and his all-strengths numbers are ugly: a .887 SP and 3.64 GAA. The Rangers could use a second backup option right about now.
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