It is safe to say, even with the less than stellar year thus far, that no one was particularly happy with Antti Raanta's being put on waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes. On ice the move makes sense as the goalie's stat line reads an unusually low .854 S% and an atypically high 3.61 GAA. Off the ice, it is particularly stinging since the very day Raanta was put on waivers, it was announced he is Carolina's nominee for the The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship.
Raanta's placement with the Chicago Wolves is perhaps the best solution, and the most favorable outcome for the opportunity to get his "mojo" back, but it puts a strain on the Hurricanes' goaltending situation and exacerbates the glaring need for an AHL affiliate. Having to call up Yaniv Perets from the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals was not particularly hard given the agreement between the Admirals and the Hurricanes, but it still left Raanta in an unfavorable no man's land.
There is no amount of evidence to convince me Raanta is an ECHL level goaltender. Sending him to Norfolk would be a slap in the face and enough to make even the most agreeable player think about walking. Sending Raanta to another team's AHL would mean his likely taking a back seat to their netminders and not getting the quality ice time needed to restore his game. So Chicago it is.
But given the nature of the relationship between the Canes and the Wolves, it makes you wonder just what kind of efforts Chicago's coaching staff with make towards getting Raanta back in form. Compounding the problems is Chicago's current goaltending situation. With two games between today (December 19th) and the Christmas break, it is up in the air if Raanta will see ice time before Santa comes sliding down chimneys.
Chicago's Adam Scheel got the win against the Rockford Ice Hogs Sunday. Scheel has 4 wins to his credit this season with a 2.77 GAA and .907 S%. Scheel scored the win on at least three days rest as goaltender Keith Kinkaid picked up the win for the Wolves on the 16th against the Texas Stars.
Kinkaid, who was critical in last year's playoffs for the New Jersey Devils, is currently on loan to the Wolves from the Devils, but is struggling to find his game. His numbers (3.57 GAA, .871) with Chicago look eerily similar to Raanta's (albeit in the NHL) and it is clear New Jersey is using Chicago as a holding pin for players in need of a retool.
How long Chicago is willing to nurse along two NHL goaltenders that are not their own remains to be seen, but it is possible that with a good start in either Tuesday's game against Manitoba or Saturday's game against Milwaukee, Antti Raanta could carve out a spot for himself in Chicago's rotation.
While there is no immediate fix for Carolina's AHL problem, the situation with Antti Raanta just goes to show that the Hurricanes would benefit greatly from an AHL team here in North Carolina. Even as easy as it is to get between Chicago and Raleigh, or Norfolk, Virginia and Raleigh for that matter, that distance would be cut to a matter of hours if the Hurricanes could land a team here in Ye Olde North State.
Having seen in person what the Fayetteville Marksmen are doing, I would love to see them get a promotion to AHL. Everything is in place for them should they get the nod. My love for all things Marksmen is on par with my love of Greensboro. The possibilities for a great brand being built in the Gate City are limitless. And that community is ripe for AHL team as seen for their love of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, and UNC-Greensboro sport. Not to mention the success of the Carolina Thunderbirds in Winston-Salem
What will happen with Carolina's AHL predicament, we only have speculations. It would have been perfect for the Antti Raanta rehab to play out right here in North Carolina where the fan favorite would likely have plenty of support and never be more than a quick car ride away for a spot start. As it is, the Most Junior Hurricanes Reporter and I will be wearing our Canes jerseys to the Wolves game on Saturday in hopes that Rants will be in the net.