That Raanta is So Hot Right Now

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
Phil Kocher
@ me

It’s been two years since the Rangers last traded a goaltender. Cam Talbot, then 27, was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for three draft picks—the 57th, 79th, and 184th picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. To fill the void left in his absence, the Rangers subsequently traded forward prospect Ryan Haggerty to the Chicago Blackhawks for Antti Raanta.

Talbot effectively had to be moved because he showed a lot of starter potential—playing in a large stretch of games when Henrik Lundqvist was injured—with no clear path to a starting gig in New York where he’d have to sack the King to do so. A strong market for goaltenders at the time (Dallas nearly acquired Talbot’s services but balked at the inclusion of defenseman Julius Honka in the deal) put the Rangers in a position of strength to pull the trigger on the deal with the Oilers where he went on to sign a long-term extension this past year.

Fast forward to today and Raanta, it seems, is a target of the same process, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes:

Friedman was asked about potential interest from the Flames in Antti Raanta of the New York Rangers, who only carries a cost of $1 million per season with a year left on his two-year deal.

“Raanta is a good name to mention,” noted Friedman. “He had a pretty good year this year. The only issue I ever heard about Raanta is that in a league where in net now big is better, he’s not that big a guy. And that’s the only knock I’ve ever heard on that guy. He’s really talented though, and he held the Rangers in it this year when Lundqvist was really struggling.”

Raanta is listed at 6-foot, 195 pounds.

He had a 16-8-2 record in 26 starts with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage during the regular season, including four shutouts.

For anyone who has been paying close attention to the play of Raanta and the year-long storyline that suggests the Vegas Golden Knights might select him this summer during the expansion draft, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Raanta’s exceptional play this season has even lead to a contingent of Rangers’ fans pleading for him to replace Lundqvist as the team’s full-time starter. Arguably the same vocal minority group that echoed the same sentiments with Talbot.

Raanta himself has also not exactly downplayed the idea that he has no aspirations of being an NHL starter, telling the New York Post:

“Of course every goalie in this business wants to be the No. 1 guy,” Raanta said. “That’s the dream, to one day be the No. 1 guy. So need to work hard in the summer and you never know what happens.”

Furthermore, Larry Brooks also floated the idea that Raanta’s low AAV plus the year he has left on his contract before UFA could theoretically be used to help the Rangers acquire a much-needed premiere right side defender:

This too: Raanta has only one more season remaining on his contract, so it is possible that he could be part of a package to land a top-pair right defenseman. The Blueshirts are loaded with young draftees in the pipeline in Igor Sheshtyorkin, Adam Huska and Tyler Wall.

The Flames aren’t especially pressured by Vegas expansion, but they do need a goaltender to protect as their starter with both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson being UFAs this summer. Raanta and his especially easy to digest $1M AAV for next season would be an ideal financial scenario for a Flames team with nearly $30M tied up in six forwards (Gaudreau, Monahan, Brouwer, Frolic, Backlund, Stajan) and another $20M-plus in four defensemen (Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, Engelland) next season. Like was the case with Talbot and the Oilers, too, acquiring Raanta with a year left on his contract would give them the added benefit of taking him for a test drive as a starter for the first time in his career before committing to a long-term extension. This is an advantage they simply wouldn’t have should they wait to see if he makes it to Unrestricted Free Agency in the summer of 2018.

Perhaps the Rangers might try to take another run at Dougie Hamilton, who found his name churning through the rumor mill last season, who would no doubt compliment Ryan McDonagh‘s flank like nothing he’s experienced thus far through his Rangers career. Raanta won’t accomplish that feat alone, but it’s possible he could be a feature in a larger package to bring the Toronto native to New York City. I’m sure the Flames would have plenty of interest in acquiring Kevin Hayes as a means to reunite him with his Boston College running mate, Johnny Gaudreau. The two are currently playing together again for Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship games giving Flames’ GM Brad Treliving an idea of the kind of chemistry the two forwards share.

Should the Rangers complete a Raanta trade, they would need to expose another goaltender to Vegas, which suggests they could re-sign pending UFA netminder Magnus Hellberg, or expose one of their many goaltending prospects instead. That list includes Brandon Halverson, Mackenzie Skapski (RFA), and Chris Nell.

With the Vegas draft a little under a month away, you can surely add this story to the pile of rumors and reports sure to involve a Rangers team who are expected to especially active.

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