With the risk of Antti Raanta being taken by Las Vegas, the New York Rangers need to consider backup goalie replacements. Can this be done within the organization? Let’s explore.
Antti Raanta has been a valuable asset to the New York Rangers over the past couple of years. He is a high quality backup, and can replace an injured Henrik Lundqvist adequately if need be. There is no doubt that, similar to Cam Talbot, he could make a viable starting goalie on some teams.
This is the crux of the problem for New York; the new Las Vegas Golden Knights are in need of a goalie, and they won’t have many better options than Raanta. Due to this, the Rangers will have to find a replacement for him that is at least close to Raanta’s quality.
With Magnus Hellberg off to the KHL, one option for the Rangers is gone. There are others within the organization that have tasted the NHL. Let’s take a look at their accomplishments in their respective leagues.
Skapski is the favorite for this position, and rightfully so. He had a wildly successful rookie AHL season and got two NHL games in as well. In those games, both against Buffalo, he recorded a shutout to go with a 0.50 GAA and a .978 save%. With Hartford, he made 28 starts and recorded a 15-8-3 record, a 2.40 GAA and a .914 save%.
Unfortunately, the following year, Skapski suffered a labral tear in his hip that required surgery and a lengthy recovery. Since returning from his injury, his performance significantly declined. Part of this can be attributed to a poor quality Hartford squad, but Skapski even performed poorly at the ECHL level.
In 2015-16, Skapski started 27 games in the ECHL and put up a 5-14-5 record with a 3.26 GAA and a .901 save percentage. His performance faltered in 2016-17 as well; despite a winning record of 18-11-0, he still had a 3.38 GAA and a .904 save percentage. Playing in the AHL, he went 2-8-0 with a 4.73 GAA and a .856 save %. He also gave up six goals in one ECHL playoff game.
It appears that either Skapski’s first season was a one hit wonder, or the hip surgery derailed his development too much, to the point where he couldn’t recover his skill set. This is an unfortunate circumstance for the Rangers, who at one point considered Skapski a potential future backup option. This is likely impossible now, given his recent play.
Brandon Halverson, coming off of his first pro season, had a similarly poor year. Though he got to backup Antti Raanta once on an emergency basis, he never actually played any NHL time. His season was split between Greenville and Hartford.
Halverson surely has talent, and is much more mobile goaltender than any the Rangers have had in recent years. He does possess a skill set that, with the right coaching, can be harnessed into decency. With that said, his performance in the ECHL and AHL were both poor, even as a rookie.
With the ECHL’s Greenville, Halverson went 4-5-0 with a 3.43 GAA and an .897 save percentage. On Hartford, he did not fare much better, putting up a 9-16-0 record to go with a 3.45 GAA and an .887 save percentage. As mentioned before, Hartford’s team was very poor last year, so that may be a factor.
As it stands, Halverson is too young still to become a full time backup goalie in the NHL. He has yet to prove that he is even a capable starting goalie in the AHL, so he cannot be relied upon to backup Henrik Lundqvist if Antti Raanta goes to Las Vegas.
Right now, the Rangers cannot viably replace Raanta from within the organization. They will have three options: trade for a backup, sign an unrestricted free agent, or give Vegas incentive not to select him. Whatever the case, the Rangers need to start finding options, fast.
Stay tuned for part two: goalie targets to replace Antti Raanta!