With the trade deadline inching closer the Los Angeles Kings made their second trade in as many weeks on Wednesday evening.
Let us take a look at the deal!
The trade: The Kings acquire Tobias Rieder and Scott Wedgewood from the Arizona Coyotes for Darcy Kuemper. Arizona is also retaining 15 percent of Rieder’s salary. He will be a restricted free agent after this season.
Why the Kings are making this trade: Let’s check in with Kings general manager Rob Blake for his take on the deal.
“We continue to look for opportunities to improve our team speed and Tobias will bring that dynamic to our club.”
Okay, that’s actually pretty important. A few days ago I wrote about how the Kings needed to hit the reset button on how they play because the league seems to have passed them by. They are not overly skilled. They do not have a ton of speed. They could use more in both areas.
Rieder, though having a really down year, could help improve that. He certainly improves the speed dynamic for the team and he seems to have the potential for a bounce back in Los Angeles because he is capable of more production than he has shown so far this season.
Kuemper has been great in a backup role this season so it’s a little surprising to see the Kings make that swap, but Rieder is at least an interesting addition.
Why the Coyotes are making this trade: That’s actually … a little bit of a mystery?
One potential angle on it is that Antti Raanta is an unrestricted free agent after this season while Kuemper is signed for two more years at a pretty cheap salary cap hit. The Coyotes make it sound like they still plan on keeping Raanta, but if nothing else this provides them with a little bit of insurance in case they can’t.
Here is Coyotes general manager John Chayka.
“Darcy is a big, talented goaltender who is having an excellent year. You need great goaltending in this league in order to be successful and with Antti and Darcy, we are confident that we have an excellent tandem for the future.”
Who won the trade? I like what it does for the Kings because they need someone like Rieder to step into their lineup. Someone fast, someone that still has the chance to score a bit more than they have shown this season. With Jonathan Quick locked in place for the foreseeable future Kuemper was never going to be anything more than a backup there so they did not really have to give up a significant piece.
Did the Coyotes give up on Rieder too soon? We will see.
Not long before the Arizona Coyotes took on (and eventually lost to) the Dallas Stars on Thursday, some eyebrows were raised that Antti Raanta went from starter to backup.
Some speculated that it was a decision made for disciplinary reasons. Others wondered if the pending UFA might have been traded.
Neither of those assumptions were true, although Raanta dealt with personal circumstances: the team announced that he was involved in a “rear-end collision” driving to the game, which the Stars won 4-1. The Coyotes described Raanta as “shaken up but OK.”
Antti Raanta update: Raanta was involved in a rear-end collision on Loop 101 on his way to Gila River Arena tonight. He was shaken up but is ok. He served as the Coyotes backup goaltender tonight versus Dallas but for precautionary reasons, was not on the bench.
Scott Wedgewood ended up starting for Arizona, giving up three goals on 24 shots.
Here’s hoping Raanta doesn’t experience any delayed effects from the accident. It’s been a challenging season for Raanta, as his debut campaign with Arizona began with injury issues, and the team never really took off.
He’s actually been quite effective, if quietly so, and noted that he’s trying not to think about his contract situation.
“It’s not really on my mind,” Raanta said on Wednesday, via AZ Central’s Bob McManaman. “I just try to play every game as good as possible and usually after a game, if you gave your team a chance to win, that’s really all you can focus on.”
Hopefully Raanta’s luck improves during the next two months, whether he stays with the Coyotes or indeed gets traded. It certainly could have been worse today, even if it was far from the ideal situation.
Apparently it was an unlucky game for the goalies who didn’t end up playing:
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said we'll get an update tomorrow on goalie Ben Bishop who was hit in the side of the face by a puck while sitting on the bench.
A lot of things baffle me about the NHL, but like many, you just eventually let it wash away for the sheer sake of enjoying the game.
While I consider myself both bemused and annoyed by Matthew Tkachuk, essentially the Bart Simpson of the NHL, it feels like the NHL doesn’t even ask him to write things on chalkboards with these slap-on-the-wrist suspensions. Boosts in scoring almost always come down to a) young talent forcing improvements by sheer skill and will and b) actually calling a handful of infractions that should have always been penalties in the first place. And, of course, the debilitating normalcy of work stoppages.
Yeah, there’s a lot of things you just need to do the shrug emoji toward and just keep moving along.
The things that still baffle me, though, are the decisions that cost teams wins and, arguably, money. NHL GMs sometimes skimping on backups has regularly confounded me, to the point that I can’t just look away.
Consider this. Aside from the Oilers turning Cam Talbot into the hockey equivalent of a running back who received too many carries or a pitcher who logged too many innings last season, most teams pencil their starting goalies in for about 60-65 regular-season games per year. Things get fuzzy when you add postseason starts, especially when you remember that the repeat champion Penguins started at least two goalies for significant chunks of their runs both times.
That generally leaves your backup starting 17-22 games per season, and that’s if you’re lucky with your number one guy’s health.
So, it boggles my mind a bit that the pursuit of a backup is frequently treated with the indifference you’d show in acquiring a bottom-pairing defenseman or depth forward.
Sure, “goalies are voodoo” and maybe there’s even more noise with number two guys, but it still bewilders me that the Pittsburgh Penguins would really think Antti Niemi was a likely fit last summer, and that all these teams with shaky backups didn’t even bother claiming Calvin Pickard. And so on.
Before this devolves from rant to hyper-rant, allow me to shift to the point of this column: a lot of starters are on the shelf right now, so how have their backups been doing, and how much should you trust them to continue to succeed?
In this latest fantasy column, I’ll look at goalies who are currently thrust into situations, and maybe sprinkle in a few scenarios that just ended or experienced quite a bit of disruption.
Note: This isn’t a comprehensive list. Also, this column ended up running long. Sorry.
Coyotes – So, it looks like Antti Raanta is healthy, but it’s been a bumpy ride.
Raanta’s played 13 games, Scott Wedgewood appeared in 12, Louis Domingue was banished after seven, and others have picked up some scraps. While I believe the Coyotes are more competitive than their record indicates, I also think that it’s better to travel the road of least resistance in fantasy.
There are a lot of bumps on this desert road.
Bruins – Yeah, I know Tuukka Rask is getting older, but it’s still perplexing that Anton Khudobin has objectively been the better goalie with each guy getting 10+ games played. This is weird and not good, but credit Khudobin for rekindling some of his early-Boston magic.
(Honestly, as happy as I was to see David Backes score two goals last night, I’m generally of the mind that the Bruins offer little beyond a terrifying top line and some promising young blueliners. At least in fantasy.)
Flames – Good grief, it’s really Mike Smith or bust, isn’t it? Enjoy footage of not-Mike-Smith getting a goal scored off of his mask:
For so long, Chicago was the place where backup goalies would do so well, they’d often get chances to be full-time starters. Sometimes those guys ended up being legit, while others were propped up a bit. Now the Blackhawks’ leaky defense instead trips their goalies and pushes their faces in puddles. Or whatever the opposite of “propping up” is. Knocking your crutches/walking cane out of your hand? I don’t know, someone help me out.
You really need to be desperate to roll with Forsberg, is what I’m saying.
Stars – Ben Bishop is dealing with a back issue, opening the door for Kari Lehtonen to already eclipse 10 games played before the calendar hits 2018. This should go about as well as things went on this hideous shorthanded goal (which wasn’t really on Lehtonen, mind you).
On a similar note, I like some of the Stars players and generally Ken Hitchcock as a coach, but not together. It’s basically a peanut-butter steak in Dallas.
Oilers – In my head, I thought Laurent Brossoit was doing kind of OK with Cam Talbot on the shelf.
In reality, Brossoit’s been even worse, with an ugly .877 save percentage so far this season. If I didn’t know any better, I’d wonder if the Oilers were pretty bad at everything beyond employing Connor McDavid.
Panthers – Roberto Luongo‘s injury could be substantial, which is bad news since he’s been playing so well and James Reimer‘s been off his game. Still, Reimer’s been a 1B and analytics darling for ages now, so if anyone can run with a chance like this, it’s Reimer.
Considering the comedy of errors that is Panthers management, this isn’t a perfect situation, but Reimer’s a decent enough choice if you’re needing a goalie and have limited options.
Canadiens – Kudos to Charlie Lindgren, who might be a goalie to monitor, yet we don’t really need to belabor the “Carey Price is important” point, do we?
Islanders – A tricky situation with Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss splitting things like a true platoon, at least so far. Halak’s been getting the reps lately, it seems. While the Islanders seem like they’re a true playoff team, their goalies are probably not worth the trouble, unless one of them is maybe your alternate option.
Penguins – Coming into this season, Tristan Jarry generated strong work in the AHL in 2016-17, managing a .925 save percentage. The Penguins wanted to leave in there to marinate for some time, but with Matt Murray hurt, Jarry’s pressed into action, and he’s shining pretty nicely. He’s 5-1-2 with a nice .921 save percentage in eight games.
As a second-rounder (44th in 2013 vs. Murray, a third-rounder who went 83rd in 2012), you could argue that Jarry might actually have the superior pedigree.
Jarry is currently 59 percent owned in Yahoo, so there’s still a chance you can get him. While the Penguins’ defense might leave him vulnerable at times, Pittsburgh is playing well, Murray might be week-to-week and Jarry is solid. You could do worse than to give him an audition.
Golden Knights – ¯_(ツ)_/¯
With Marc-Andre Fleury showing some progress, there’s risk beyond the already-comical risk of taking on Vegas goalies, but let’s give Malcolm Subban credit for revamping his career prospects.
As with most Golden Knights things, I really don’t know what to tell you, other than “Yes, they seem better than we all expected, and no, I still don’t know what happens next.”
Jets – There are warning signs that the Connor Hellebuyck train will slow or even come to a screeching halt, but sometimes fantasy success is about being willing to laugh and enjoy hot streaks while they last.
Byron notched his first career NHL hat trick as the Canadiens annihilated the Detroit Red Wings 10-1. He now has nine goals on the season, well on pace to eclipse his career-high of 22 he set last season. Bryon was claimed off waivers by the Canadiens from the Flames on the day before the 2015-16 began. He’s exceeded expectations, to say the least.
How’s this for a replacement for Matt Murray? Two wins, one shutout, one goal allowed in 120 minutes of play. Jarry has been sensational since Murray went down with a lower-body injury and the Penguins are reaping the rewards.
Wedgewood stopped 26 shots from the New Jersey Devils en route to his second-career shutout against the team that he recorded his first with. The Devils had yet to have been shutout this year prior to Saturday.
The St. Louis Blues have lost three straight and four of their last five after dropping a 2-1 overtime decision against the Minnesota Wild.
So close, yet so far: The Oilers had a 6-1 lead early in the third period only to watch it get cut to 6-5 as the Calgary Flames stormed back after a brutal start. Alas, the Oilers held on to win their sixth game in a row against their Battle of Alberta rivals.
Radek Faska has five goals in his past three games for the Dallas Stars.
Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada that there is a “sense and a hope” that the salary cap in the NHL could reach $80 million next season.
On the same broadcast, Friedman touched on what it would take for the Sabres to trade Evander Kane. The asking price, of course, is high. Friedman said the returns bigger than those of what the Winnipeg Jets got for Andrew Ladd (Marko Dano, 1st round and conditional picks) and the Arizona Coyotes got for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White (1st, 2nd, 4th round picks) should be expected.
Furthermore, the Los Angeles Kings are going to make pending UFA Drew Doughty a priority when it comes to inking him to a long-term extension.
On Tuesday night the Arizona Coyotes will play their 20th game of the season when they take on the Winnipeg Jets, winners of five of their past seven games.
The Coyotes will enter the game with just two wins on the season.
None of those wins have come in regulation, only defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime back on October 30 and the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout on November 4.
In total, they have collected just seven out of a possible 38 points.
This is not only the worst start in the NHL this season (they are five points behind the second worst team at the moment, a Florida Panthers team that has played in three fewer games than the Coyotes) it is the worst start any team has had in the NHL over the past 10 years.
Only one other team during that stretch has failed to reach at least the 10-point mark through its first 19 games, the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres, also with seven. That was one of the Sabres teams that was going through the scorched earth rebuild that saw the team get torn down to its most basic foundation in the front office’s efforts to tank for draft position.
Even that Sabres team won three of its first 19 games and one in regulation.
The Coyotes are still a team going through a rebuild and with an extremely young roster. They have seven players that have appeared in at least seven games (including six that have appeared in at least 14 games) that are age 22 or younger. A roster that young is almost certain to experience a lot of growing pains and the playoffs were probably not a realistic goal at the start of this season anyway.
It still should not be this bad because there is some real talent on this roster.
No team has a chance to win with that level of goaltending.
The Coyotes scored at least three goals (including two games with four goals) in five of those 10 regulation losses that the Domingue, Hill, Wedgewood trio has started.
Three or four goals in regulation is usually enough a hockey game, or at least get a point. Teams that score either three or four goals in a game this season have a points percentage of .646. A team with a .646 points percentage over an 82-game season would be a 106 point team in the standings.
When the Coyotes score three or four goals in a game this season (including the eight games started by Raanta)?
They are only at .142 in those games.
With even slightly better goaltending in those games there might have been a couple of extra wins right there. Even just plain badgoaltending would have probably made a difference as a .900 save percentage from those goalies would have sliced nine to 10 goals off of their goals against total for the season.
There is also an element of some bad shooting luck from some of their top forwards, including Stepan.
Prior to this season Stepan has been a remarkably consistent point producer that has always been a lock for at least 55 points and around 20 goals.
Four of the Coyotes’ top-six forwards in terms of shots on goal (Stepan, Domi, Dvorak, Brad Richardson, and Jordan Martinook) currently own a shooting percentage under 5 percent. As a group that quintet has scored on just six of their 187 shots on goal.
That is a shooting percentage of just 3.2 percent from a group of, mostly, their top forwards.
Prior to this season that group had a career shooting percentage of 9.9 percent.
If they were shooting at their normal career averages on the same number of shots that would be an additional 12 goals from that group alone.
Put all of that together with a young, inexperienced team that still has some holes to fill and you have the worst start in the NHL in more than a decade.
So what are the Coyotes at this point?
They are a rebuilding team that has been hurt by two big injuries to key veterans (Raanta, Hjalmarsson), crushed by bad goaltending, and has had a few of itstop players start the year on a cold streak shooting.
They should not be an historically bad team like their early season record would seem to indicate. They also are not because there is a chance a lot of these early trends from a percentage perspective reverse.
When that happens the results should start to improve too.