Coyotes Have a Goaltending Decision Looming When Hutton Returns

As the Arizona Coyotes continue to drag themselves through the 2021-22 NHL season, relocation rumors, and the recent saga of unpaid bills, there’s one lingering question that’s stumping people: What do the Coyotes do once goaltender Carter Hutton returns from injury? Currently the team is led by the tandem of Scott Wedgewood and rookie Karel Vejmelka after Hutton went down with an injury on Oct. 24 against the Florida Panthers.

The Coyotes have options to mull over regarding the impending goalie situation on their hands — whether that be through a demotion to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners, running a three-man rotation, or trading/placing one of the three on waivers. Regardless of what happens, questions are popping up in the desert, and it’s not about their play for once.

How We Got to Where We Are

A lower-body injury to starter Hutton forced the team to turn to the 25-year-old rookie netminder Vejmelka to bridge the gap, but despite strong play from the young Czech netminder, along with Tucson goalie Ivan Provestov, who was recalled to serve as the team’s backup, the team wasn’t able to generate wins.

Ivan Prosvetov Arizona Coyotes
Ivan Prosvetov, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Upon learning the extent of Hutton’s injury, general manager Bill Armstrong took to the waiver wire, picking up former Coyotes goalie Wedgewood from the New Jersey Devils. Wedgewood’s debut came in his second game on the club’s roster, coming in for Vejmelka just 59 seconds in. He ultimately helped the team complete a comeback win over the Seattle Kraken to pick up their first win of the season.

Related: Coyotes Goaltending Situation an Embarrassment for the Organization

Since Hutton went on injured reserve, the Coyotes have amassed a record of 5-13-1 with the tandem of Vejmelka and Wedgewood, this after starting the season 0-5-1 with Vejmelka and Hutton. The recent string of solid play from the team’s current tandem has also allowed the team to keep themselves in games more often than not.

Who will the Coyotes Keep?

As of Friday, the Coyotes’ goaltending carousel of Provestov, Hutton, Wedgewood, and Vejmelka hold a record of 5-18-2, in addition to a 3.47 goals-against average and .895 save percentage, which ranks last in the league in both statistics. Going off of these stats, and with the recent announcement that Hutton has cleared COVID-19 protocols, the Coyotes have an impending goalie situation on their hands.

Provestov is seen as the Coyotes’ future franchise goaltender, and the team would rather him play the next season or two in the AHL to condition more before taking over the reigns. Head coach André Tourigny and Armstrong have already made it clear that Hutton’s presence is far from over in Arizona, cementing his spot on the roster while leaving only Vejmelka and Wedgewood left to determine the backup spot.

Karel Vejmelka Arizona Coyotes
Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While the team could opt to run a three-goalie tandem between the netminders for the rest of the season, it’s likely that one of the three gets sent down to Tucson, or gets placed on waivers/traded. Wedgewood currently seems like the odd-man out, despite picking up three of the team’s five wins this season, and being the team’s most solid option in net.

Time is Ticking, Coyotes Must Make a Decision

While losing Wedgewood to waivers would be a tough loss for the team after ending the team’s 11-game losing streak for the second time in his career — and Coyotes history — it’s a possibility that should be seriously considered as Hutton nears closer and closer to a return.

One thing is for sure, and it’s that nothing is set in stone yet. Until Hutton returns to the lineup, the Coyotes will continue to rely on the solid tandem of “Wedgie and Veggie.” What do you think? Who’s the team’s starting goalie going forward? Who stays and who goes? Let us know below!

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