The Carolina Hurricanes’ off-season has puzzled many fans. Changing almost half the roster, it’s going to be a very different line-up in the home opener against the New York Islanders than we say in any game from the playoffs last season. While the forwards and defense have also seen a lot of change, Carolina goes into the season with a new goaltender and a sort of new goaltender.
The Carolina Hurricanes managed to sign Antti Raanta to a two-year, $4 million deal that carries a $2 million cap hit for each year. While risky due for a few reasons that we will get into in a few moments, overall this is a completely good gamble by the Canes. They are paying Raanta less this season and next than they had been paying Alex Semin until this year.
This deal is risky because Raanta’s groin is made of paper mache, carbon fiber, and dust at this point. He’s had so many injuries to overcome during his career, that there’s a very likely chance he will end up on the injured list at some point, and at 32 years old, there’s not really much that the Carolina Hurricanes could do outside of accepting that.
Raanta’s only played 198 games in the NHL, winning the 2015 Stanley Cup as the backup with the Chicago Blackhawks before moving onto the New York Rangers. Raanta would be traded from New York alongside new Carolina Hurrican Derek Stepan in exchange for Antony DeAngelo and a 1st round pick (This turned out to be Lias Andersson).
While his 198 NHL games might not be the most impressive, Raanta’s career 95-63-20 record is not something to bat an eyelid at. It’s not going to get him into the hall of fame, but it’s not bad. Couple that with his career .919 save percentage and 2.46 goals against average, it’s not bad for a goaltender that hasn’t played a lot.
Raanta has only played the starter’s share of games one time during his career, and that was in 2017-18. He started 46 games and had a 21-17-6 record with a .930 save percentage and a 2.24 goals-against average. That’s somewhat miraculous considering the Coyotes team he was playing behind. If Carolina gets that kind of performance from him, they could be built to make a deep run.
Raanta, assuming he is the backup goaltender, is far better than any support goaltender we’ve seen since Tom Dundon bought the team. He’s able to step in and run with it for a while if there’s an injury to the starter, or if the starter just goes cold. He’s able to come off the bench and inspire confidence behind a team that’s underperforming too.
Raanta is one of many questions about the team going forward. If he performs well then Carolina has a great pickup on one heck of a deal. If he struggles to stay healthy and he finds his health is consistently a problem, then the Carolina Hurricanes will not be able to get the best out of this goalie. But this is a moderate risk with a very high potential reward.