Editor’s Note: This is going to be a running series taking a look at the players the Rangers might lose to expansion and the issues that surround each potential player lost. We’ll try to take a look at things from a Las Vegas standpoint to see who they might want to pick.
The Player: Antti Raanta
The Contract: One year remaining for $1-million
The Season: 16-8-2, 2.26 GAA, .922 SV%
The Summary: Raanta has been yet another budding starter behind Henrik Lundqvist. The Benoit Allaire School of Molding Quality Goaltenders has taken yet another thirty cents on the dollar trade and turned it into a profit for the Rangers.
Raanta saw significant time in the spotlight this year when Alain Vigneault played him for four straight games — sitting a healthy Henrik Lundqvist in the process. At the time Vigneault said “I love Hank, but I love the team more.” That little stint earned demands that Raanta see the starting role permanently for how well he played. That was nonsense, of course, but it did take until the playoffs for the Hank hatred to finally die down.
As miserable as that process was, there’s something to be said for how well Raanta played this year. He’s been great since he came to Broadway in general. There’s a real pull here to be able to grab a starting goaltender for Vegas.
Why he’d be attractive for Las Vegas to select: Vegas is going to have a lot of moving pieces this summer, but the most important thing for them to nail down is going to be a goaltender. Raanta has proven he’s an overqualified backup; potentially even ready to take over a full starting role.
Where Michael Grabner’s contract might scare Vegas away, Raanta’s isn’t ideal, but the Golden Knights hold one ace in the hole: The starting role on the team. If they can waive that in Raanta’s face, make him the starter next year and move forward that way, they’re far more likely to keep him around. I’ve taken a look at the goalies who might be on the market and there’s not a ton of attractive options; although there’s a few guys who might be available as of this writing to give them pause. Raanta, at the very worst, is a serviceable backup who costs next to nothing. At the very best? You’re getting a 28-year-old starter right away.
On the list of guys who will probably be available, Raanta might be the most efficient (by that I mean value against proven NHL ability).
Why Las Vegas might stay away: This one is pretty simple: Vegas doesn’t value him as a starting goaltender. If Vegas doesn’t have Raanta penned in between the pipes permanently, there are going to be cheaper backup options on the table in the draft pipeline. Again, Las Vegas isn’t making the playoffs this year, so having a sturdy backup isn’t nearly as important as it would be for a team like the Rangers.
Thus, cheaper options might make more sense. It might seem petty, but choosing a guy making $700K a year over Raanta saves $300K. Do a few of those and you could save a million dollars or two on the cap. For a team that is going to take bad contracts to grab high draft picks (potentially first round picks) they need those savings.
Joe’s Guess: I would think Raanta is an attractive option for Vegas. I can see them potentially thinking he’s a starter (he really might be) and be willing to take the bet on the one-year deal assuming he’d want the keys to the starting role. Of all the players I think are most attractive about the Rangers (again: Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, Raanta, and Michael Grabner) I’d think Raanta is high on the list.