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Injury pauses start of Antti Raanta era in Arizona

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Antti Raanta #32 of the New York Rangers looks on during a stop in play against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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With Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler headlining a dizzying list of injured Ducks, Anaheim won’t open its season at full-strength. On the other hand, the Arizona Coyotes won’t dress their would-be new starting goalie in Antti Raanta.

The team announced that Raanta is sidelined with a “minor lower-body injury,” so Louis Domingue gets the nod, instead.

The holding pattern lingers

At 28, Raanta’s been waiting for a chance to be a top guy for a long time - excelling as a backup for both the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers - so this really has to sting.

And, really, it likely stings quite a bit more than it would for, say, Scott Darling.

Both backups were traded into intriguing opportunities, but while Darling signed a four-year, $16.6 million deal, Raanta didn’t get a new contract with the Coyotes. Instead, he’s in a high-pressure contract year; the Coyotes could easily decide that he’s not the goalie of the future. Meanwhile, goalies like Darling and Frederik Andersen got their money before they stopped a single puck for new teams.

(Raanta probably relates more to fellow former Rangers backup Cam Talbot, who didn’t receive an extension with the Edmonton Oilers until midway through his first season.)

The Coyotes deserve kudos for taking their potential new goalie for a test drive rather than splurging on an extension right away. That said, there’s the potential for an especially cruel turn for Raanta.

Prove it (again)

Consider this: Domingue ($1.05M) actually carries a slightly larger cap hit than Raanta ($1M). There’s at least a chance that he might outplay Raanta, especially if this is the type of issue that lingers.

In the bigger picture, this remains a golden opportunity. Just check out Raanta’s sparkling stats from the past three seasons:
2014-15 (Chicago): 12-7-4, .936 save percentage, .936 GAA

2015-16 (Rangers): 18-11-6, .919 save percentage, 2.25 GAA

2016-17 (Rangers): 26-16-8, .922 save percentage, 2.26 GAA

With what could be a stout Coyotes defense, it’s perfectly realistic to picture Raanta transitioning from a backup with strong starter numbers to a proven number one.

Can you blame Raanta if there’s at least a slight fear that this opportunity will split through his fingers, though?

* - Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a little banged-up but playing, so the Coyotes have their own injury challenges. Just nowhere near as many as the Ducks are facing.