Antti Raanta has done all the Rangers could have hoped for in his two seasons backing up Henrik Lundqvist. Now with the expansion draft looming, it’s time to discuss Raanta’s future beyond this season.
Two summers ago the New York Rangers found themselves in a similar situation regarding Cam Talbot. The only exception being there was no expansion draft to pry their players away. With a team friendly contract, there is reason to believe Raanta may not be a Ranger come training camp in September.
The Vegas Golden Knights will put together their first ever roster on June 21st. Each team must expose at least one goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere, leaving Raanta out to dry. The Rangers can always negotiate with Vegas to not take Raanta in expansion despite him being exposed. Sending a draft pick or player to Vegas to ensure Raanta stays, for example.
Now if no deal can be made and Raanta must be exposed, it’s not any guarantee he is a goner. The Los Angeles Kings allowed teams to negotiate with upcoming unrestricted free agent Ben Bishop. The Kings then traded his rights to the Dallas Stars, who subsequently signed him. The Golden Knights contacted Bishop, and afterwards Bishop said he believes George McPhee, Vegas’ GM, is “thinking younger.” Bishop is 31, and how young Vegas wants is a mystery.
Antti Raanta just turned 28, coming off a season with a .922 save percentage. There are other goalies who are at a similar age that are unrestricted free agents. Mike Condon of the Ottawa Senators is 27 and coming off a fine season. Steve Mason is 28 and has underlying good numbers. Jonathan Bernier is coming off a 21 win season for Anaheim.
Draft Day Trade
The NHL Draft will be held June 23-24, and assuming Raanta survives expansion, all eyes should be on Jeff Gorton. The Rangers tried to sell high with Cam Talbot two drafts ago, asked for too much and got burned for it. With Benoit Allaire’s ability to churn out great goalies, a replacement for Raanta should not be a hard search, thus allowing them to trade him.
If Jeff Gorton does trade a draft pick to keep Vegas away, they can easily replenish that with a possibly higher draft pick. The Kings got a fourth round pick from Dallas simply to have negotiating rights with Ben Bishop.
A second round pick should be in the cards at least if a desperate team needs goaltending help. Calgary after losing out on Bishop seem to be an obvious target. Winnipeg may like Raanta on a one year trial with their two young goalies (Eric Comrie and Connor Hellebuyck) still developing.
It would be a mistake for a team looking to retool to have Raanta play through the end of his contract. As the most expendable player to trade, to not push for more draft picks will only hurt the Rangers long term.
Losing him for nothing in expansion will not be ideal. However, if it comes down to that, remember that Benoit Allaire has magical powers and the next backup can become a future trade target.
Antti Raanta excelled in his time in New York. However, as a part of a business, the reality is his time here is most likely coming to a close. How it will end lies in the hands of Jeff Gorton and George McPhee.