It is said that the most important position in hockey is the goaltender. In that case, the Carolina Hurricanes have a great problem to have sooner than later.
Frederik Andersen has been out with an injury for over a month now.
Leading the way in starts last year and this year before the injury, Andersen had taken the reigns on the number one role between the pipes.
Antti Raanta has been an extremely productive backup option and at times a 1-B. Last season Raanta gave the Hurricanes a chance to win in his playoff starts.
Raanta seemed destined to take over most of the starts while Andersen recovered.
Enter Pyotr Kochetkov!
Kochetkov got his chance to relieve Raanta and has been running with the opportunity. He is currently on a shutout streak of two straight games and three total this season.
The former second-round draft pick’s goals-against average has dropped to a minuscule 2.02 with a .926 save percentage.
It is not that Raanta has played poorly but it is difficult for any goaltender to duplicate what Kochetkov has done in the 12 games played.
As is the norm for Raanta, he has had some injuries that have kept him from making consecutive starts which has also allowed the Kochetkov train to roll on.
In 9 games played this season, Raanta has a formidable 2.62 goals against average with an undesirable .894 save percentage.
Andersen has been practicing with the team and is not far from a return.
Obviously, Rod Brind’Amour has been thinking of what to do when he has three starting-caliber goaltenders healthy and ready for action.
Again, this a great problem to have but it will get tricky for Brind’Amour and GM Don Waddell.
Reunion in New York
Raanta makes $2 million this year and is an unrestricted free agent after the season. Although this is a fair cost for a backup goalie of his caliber, the Hurricanes could use any cap relief possible heading toward the trade deadline.
Additionally, the Hurricanes can expect back other injured players that will contribute to the total team salary once they return.
Many teams will be looking for quality goaltending on the cheap as the season heads into the thick of the winter.
One team that comes to mind is a former team of Raanta, the New York Rangers.
Like the Hurricanes, the Rangers are contending for a playoff spot and beyond this season. The reigning Vezina Award winner, Igor Shesterkin, is the starting goalie currently.
At some point in the season, Shesterkin will need to get more rest as he has played 22 games already.
The current backup goalie is veteran, Jaroslav Halak. Halak signed over the summer to back up Shesterkin but has not produced as planned.
He has only started 8 games and has had difficulty keeping his team in those games. He has 1 victory in his 8 games and has a 3.04 goals-against average with a .888 save percentage.
Making just $500,000 less than Raanta, the money would work for the Rangers and certainly clear some space for the Hurricanes while trading from a strength.
The Hurricanes could copy the Las Vegas Golden Knights and trade for future considerations or pick up a late-round draft pick.
Either way, an asset will come from the trade and clear up the space for Kochetkov to continue his brilliance, while Andersen eases his way back into shape.