As the 2022-23 NHL season hits the final home stretch all eyes remain focused on the approaching March 3 trade deadline. With deals already underway including Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers and Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari to the Toronto Maple Leafs, many deals remain to be completed. The Arizona Coyotes for one continue to look like strong players ahead of the deadline with big names Jakob Chychrun, Shayne Gostistbehere, and Nick Bjugstad yet to be moved.
Along with other expected smaller deals, general manager Bill Armstrong has a lot of decisions to make, especially in the goaltending department. Currently in the midst of a nine-game point streak, the Coyotes seem to be struggling at the “tank” aspect of rebuilding. With coveted prospects rounding out the top three to five spots, the Coyotes are winning their way out of a top pick in this year’s upcoming draft. This is due in part to the recent strong goaltending of Connor Ingram and Karel Vejmelka.
Recent Goaltending Performances May Lead To Move
The biggest concern for the Coyotes at the deadline may not be Vejmelka, whom many believed would be originally dealt a few weeks ago, but instead Ingram. In his past three starts, including coming in relief against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday (Feb. 18), he’s amassed a .960 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.00 goals-against average (GAA), including a 47-save shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first of his career.
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In the month of January, Ingram recorded a 2.62 GAA and a .929 SV% making him one of the most attractive backup goalie options ahead of the deadline. He hasn’t been alone, his counterpart Vejmelka has shined at points this season, too, amassing a .936 SV% during November along with a 2.15 GAA.
Needless to say, the Coyotes have a choice to make ahead of the deadline, and as long as the current goaltending duo continues to get them wins, Armstrong will have to make the decision of potentially moving one of the team’s netminders if it helps them get a better shot at a top three pick.
Who’s Next Man Up?
Perhaps the biggest looming question isn’t whether the Coyotes move a goaltender or not, it’s who they have in the pipeline that’s ready to take that next step. The first and most logical answer would be Ivan Prosvetov, who’s currently with the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, Tucson Roadrunners. The main issue, he hasn’t lived up to the hype he showcased in his one year in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Saginaw Spirit. In 121 career starts with the Tucson Roadrunners, he’s registered an abysmal 3.34 GAA and a disappointing .893 SV%.
The next option would be Jon Gillies, who’s played 15 games with Tucson this year, recording not any better stats, a 3.70 GAA, and a .878 SV%, with a 5-8-2 record. Besides the team’s current two minor league netminders, the Coyotes are stretched thin in the goalie department. Prospect Anson Thornton has a ways to go from being an option for the team. This leaves the Coyotes with the decision to acquire a goalie in return if they do indeed move either Vejmelka or Ingram.
Who Stays and Who Goes?
While stats indicate the Coyotes’ recent success may be due to more of an offensive spark than goaltending, there’s no denying that netminding has played a small part in the current nine-game point streak. The recent hot play of Ingram may be the deciding factor if Armstrong moves one of the two ahead of the deadline.
The Coyotes are no strangers when it comes to turning a goalie’s career around. Ilya Bryzgalov, Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk, Darcy Kuemper, and now potentially Ingram have all come to Arizona either through the waiver wire, free agency, or a trade as a backup goalie, and so far, all have ended up leaving the Coyotes as a starter. There’s still a strong possibility the Coyotes go through the deadline with both netminders on the roster, but if they keep up the success, expect a change in net to be made in order to stay on par with the current rebuild.