The Backup Plan: Finding the next Antti Raanta

During the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers traded Ryan Haggerty to Chicago for goaltender Antti Raanta to replace goalie Cam Talbot – who the Rangers traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a package of draft picks that included a 2nd, 3rd, and a 7th round pick all in the 2015 draft. When Talbot came up to the Rangers during the 2013-14 season, he established himself as a solid back up to Henrik Lundqvist and continued his strong play into the 2014 season – proving that he was ready to claim a starter’s spot on a team that didn’t have one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history in front of him. In stepped Antti Raanta to fill the void left in Talbot’s wake. But now it’s time to talk about replacing the Finnish backup.

It can’t be understated how well Antti Raanta has played here in New York over the last two seasons and it should be stated that the Rangers trading Raanta is in no way an indictment on his play. Instead, it should be looked at as a reward – Raanta has earned a chance to start somewhere that needs solid a starting goaltender. This is how the Rangers should treat their backup goaltenders; much like good relief pitching in baseball, pump up their value and then trade them at the peak of their trade value to restock assets to spend elsewhere. This also helps the Rangers get something for Raanta instead of losing him for nothing in the expansion draft.

The question then becomes, who replaces Antti Raanta?

While there some internal options, Brandon Halverson and Mackenzie Skapski come to mind, they can still use more time in the AHL to develop their overall game. The true heir apparent, Igor Shestyorkin, still has a couple of years left on his KHL contract before he comes and assumes the throne here in New York.

With no real viable in house option available, it’s time to look outside the organization and see who can be the next candidate for Benoit Allaire’s Backup Goalie Factory and Auto Body Shop. To do this, I got some help from websites like Hockey-Reference and Ian Fleming’s great goalie stats site, Dispelling Voodoo, to find goalies with a comparable profile to Raanta that could be a strong candidate to replace the Finnish goalie. However, this is an incomplete list and is only one direction that the Rangers could take going into the offseason when it comes to Raanta.

Let’s break this down into some more manageable tiers, shall we? First up are the major reclamation projects that will need a lot of work from Benoit Allaire to max out their value for other teams and would probably cost more in money and/or assets to acquire. These guys are probably the lowest on the priority list to acquire to replace Raanta.

First up? New Jersey Devils backup Keith Kinkaid

Twenty-seven year old Kinkaid has bounced between the AHL and the NHL over the past few seasons and only solidified himself as Corey Schneider’s backup two years ago when he first cracked the 20 game threshold. Last season Kinkaid put up a 0.916 sav% and 2.64 GAA while posting an 8-13 record while playing in 28 games (23 starts), which was easily the best year of his career.

This takes a closer look at Kinkaid and compares his season to Raanta’s.

When looking closely at Kinkaid’s numbers you can see that while he handles those long range, low danger shots pretty well, as the shots the closer, he gets weaker. Keeping in mind the defense he will be playing behind, this will take a lot of work from Benoit Allaire and company to bring the most out of Kinkaid, who is an UFA this offseason.

Next, let’s take a look at a goalie that has had a more stable NHL career but has yet to find his groove in the crease; Darcy Kuemper.

With 102 games of NHL experience, Kuemper hasn’t been able to nail down a solid starting spot in Minnesota especially with Devan Dubnyk coming and grabbing hold of that job once he came in from Nashville. Kuemper’s numbers have see-sawed over his career. But with the right goalie coach, he could find that sense of consistency that has been missing from his game and being an UFA, the Rangers would not have to spend much in assets to bring him in.

When we look deeper into Kuemper’s numbers, we can see that, like Kinkaid, this would be a major reclamation project for the Rangers to undergo and the value here would probably be limited based upon how much Kuemper bounces back.

Those are two of the more long reach project goalies that could step into Raanta’s spot at the end of the Rangers bench. Now, let’s look at a few goalies that have the right combination of stats, perception, and financial impact that could make them perfect “pump and dump” candidates.

The first on this list? Jhonas Enroth

Jhonas Enroth has had an...interesting career. He came up to the Buffalo Sabres as the next great Swedish goaltending prospect, but he’s never seemed to grab that NHL level game – which has resulted in him bouncing around the league. He ended up finishing last year in the AHL, playing for the Anaheim Ducks affiliate after getting traded from Toronto and only ended up playing 6 games in the NHL this past season. Benoit Allaire would have his work cut out for him with the 28 year old goalie, but he does have the raw talent that could be molded into something better than he has been. He’d also be a very cheap free agent to bring in for the Rangers.

Next up, and probably the most intriguing option? Anders Nilsson

Anders Nilsson is a very big goalie, standing at 6’6 his size will always make GMs drool over him. The former Islanders prospect is another goalie that has bounced around the NHL and the AHL a bit. At 26 years old there is a lot of untapped potential here for Benny Allaire and company to work with.

Playing behind a fellow Swede who just so happens to be the living God of Goaltending could help Nilsson develop into a solid short term backup option until Shestyorkin comes over to the United States or until teams come calling over for his services with a bundle of picks.

Now, again these are just options for one path that the Rangers could take. With the Rangers needing to rebuild their prospect and draft pick pool after years of short sighted trades, taking a pump and dump strategy with their backup role is not only a smart move on the ice, but it also makes financial sense for the Rangers.