The 2024 year got off to a splendid start for the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes defeated the Metro Division-leading New York Rangers by a large margin. The 6-1 victory and the climb in the standings have cooled off the naysayers but goal-tending depth will always be a concern.
Since Frederik Andersen went down with an unfortunate illness, the questions in the crease have become louder and louder. Andersen has resumed skating but that does not provide a time table for a return to action. General Manager, Don Waddell, has stated that he believes the Danish goalkeeper will return.
The play of Antti Raanta has left much to be desired this season and even earned a trip to the AHL and the waiver wire. Raanta has played in 15 games in his age 34 season and has registered 7 wins. In those games, the Finish has played to an abysmal .855 save percentage and 3.56 GAA.
The 24-year-old, Pyotr Kochetkov has always shown signs of brilliance but like every young goalie, needed time to learn and get through the bumps and bruises of the NHL. Recently, Kochetkov has returned to form with 3 straight wins against the Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Predators. His save percentage has risen to .904 and his GAA remains respectable at 2.53.
The team has brought in multiple veterans on a try-out basis but nothing seems to have stuck. With Kochetkov playing better, it allows the organization some time to decide on the position but that decision is lurking.
If this team is to make a run at the Stanley Cup, the position will need an upgrade. This does not mean a bona fide starting goalie but someone who can go on a run of starts to spare a tired or struggling Kochetkov. Raanta does not appear to be the long-term answer.
One intriguing name that hit the waiver wire recently was Toronto's Ilya Samsonov. The former first-round draft pick has had some strong play in this league joined with some inconsistency. This led to him heading to a new team in Toronto but helped the Maple Leafs get to the second round of the playoffs last season.
At just 26 years young, Samsonov is extremely young and immature but has 146 games played in the NHL. With a career .903 save percentage and 2.77 GAA, the Russian is worth the risk for any club.
The Canes could solidify a Russian goaltending duo for many years to come with Kochetkov and Samsonov in net. The former Washington Capitals keeper is just two years older than Kochetkov and could teach many lessons while getting a chunk of starts himself.
With a salary cap hit of $3,550,000, the Canes and Leafs would need to get creative but the contract is for just one season. After starting the season poorly, Samsonov would welcome the change of scenery and potentially his last true chance to be a contributing goaltending in the NHL.
This seems like a strong move for the present and future, while the organization waits to see if Andersen can return. The move also could help Kochetkov rise to another level but it seems to be worth the shot.
For now, Samsonov will play for the AHL affiliate, must be nice to have one, and time will tell if someone comes calling for the Russian.