After playing just 46 games last season due to injury Henrik Lundqvist was once again a workhorse. Only five goaltenders started in more games than him this year.
The goalie that protected the Rangers net when Lundqvist was out of the crease was first year Ranger Antti Raanta.
In June 2015 Raanta was acquired from the Blackhawks. Chicago had no more need of him with Corey Crawford and Scott Darling under contract. The Rangers gave up Ryan Haggerty for the Finnish goalie. Haggerty scored 13 points in 36 AHL games with the Rockford IceHogs.
At 27 years old Raanta has 64 games of experience with winning hockey teams in the NHL. He had two great seasons in the SM-liiga with Assat Pori before two seasons and 25 games of underwhelming play in the AHL.
Before the 2015-16 season was over the Rangers re-signed him in early May. So what did Raanta do in 2015-16 to earn a two-year contract extension?
In 1150 minutes between the pipes (18 games started) Raanta had a 2.24 GAA and a .919 SV%. He had a 11-6-2 record and posted one shutout in his first game of the season against the Sharks (October 19th).
Raanta had a tough act to follow in former Ranger Cam Talbot. When the Rangers needed him most Talbot was absolutely outstanding. His 2014-15 season made him a valuable commodity that landed the Rangers some draft picks in a trade with the Oilers last offseason.
When the first two players that fans will compare you to are Lundqvist and Talbot in his herculean season, it is going to be hard to impress. But Raanta still proved that he was damn good.
(note: all data from corsica.hockey)
For some context, Talbot’s even strength Sv% in 2014-15 was 93.04% in 36 games played and Lundqvist’s was 93.67% this year.
Undersized by NHL standards, Raanta needs to rely on sound positioning in net. The numbers show that although he is no Lundqvist, Raanta is clearly a good goaltender. He is more than capable of playing the role of Lundqvist’s understudy.
What’s interesting is that Raanta had a higher shorthanded saving percentage than Lundqvist this year. It’s important to keep in mind that Raanta played just shy of 90 minutes shorthanded and Hank played just under 335 minutes shorthanded. Which translated to 204 more shots faced on the penalty kill by Hank.
He might not play as many minutes as most backup goaltenders in the league do, but Raanta is likely one of the best in that role. Just like Lundqvist he had to endure his team’s woeful penalty killing efforts and spotty defense. He put up good numbers in spite of this, especially when his team was down a man.
He’s not Lundqvist, but I can think of a couple “starting” goaltenders in the league I’d start Raanta over any day.
In my opinion Raanta is pretty much an ideal backup goaltender.
At a cap hit of just $1,000,000 Raanta helps take some of the sting away from Lundqvist’s $8.5 million cap hit. Last season he had a cap hit of $750,000 (the last year of a two-year deal he signed in Chicago).
If there is another level for Raanta to reach we will find out in the next two years. With goaltending guru Benoit Allaire and all-time great Lundqvist to learn and absorb information from, Raanta is in a great situation.
It’s safe to say that the Rangers got great value out of the Haggerty trade and Raanta’s contract last season. That is why he earned a grade of “A” from me for his play in 2015-16.
What do you think? Too generous? Does Raanta have the potential to be more?