After months of speculation, debate and general hand-wringing, we now know that it was Oscar Lindberg who ended up being poached off the Rangers’ roster by the Vegas Golden Knights. Various options had been “sure things” since the off-season began. Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast and of course Antti Raanta have been speculated to be joining a newest team in the desert.
It’s Raanta I want to discuss this morning. The 28-year old Finn had a tremendous year as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup and many feel that he is an interesting trade chip, given the low cost options on the market and Benoit Allaire’s seeming ability to turn your average midtown commuter into a quality NHL backup. Let’s dive a little deeper into market and trade comparables and see if Raanta is worth moving.
Raanta has one year remaining on his current deal, with a clean $1m salary. Obviously, this is a bargain in any cap environment, but even more so with a relatively static cap the past few seasons. After this year, Raanta is eligible for UFA status, at which time he is likely to command a significant raise, even as a backup or platoon option. If the Rangers intend to extract off-ice value from Raanta, their only opportunity is to move him this offseason. Sure, they may be able to recoup a late pick or two by trading his rights to a team looking to get a jump on the UFA market, but not nearly what they could look to obtain should they decide to trade him now.
There has already been something of a goalie carousel this offseason. Calgary, Dallas, Vegas and Carolina have made moves to shore up their crease. The quality of those deals is up for some debate (*coughDallasandCalgarycough*). However, these were goaltending needy teams that are now ostensibly out of the Raanta market. Let’s take a look at some teams that at least on the surface would need a goaltender:
Buffalo: The Sabres traded a late first round pick to obtain who they thought was their goalie of the future in Robin Lehner two off-seasons ago. Lehner is exceptionally talented, but has shown himself to be something of a psychopath on the ice who is allergic to saves in a shootout. People tend to forget he is still only 24, but with a new regime in Buffalo, the front office may want to move on and look to install someone with a little more stability for a young Sabres team.
Ottawa: Even though Craig Anderson has become something of a folk hero in Ottawa for his wife’s courageous battle with cancer, the fact is that he is thirty six years old and a pending UFA. Raanta could platoon with Anderson this season (a scenario in which Anderson finds himself much more statistically successful) and sign a deal to see him take over the crease full time next season. Not the cleanest fit, but it could work.
Flyers: Currently, their starter is Michal Neuvirth. Enough said. All kidding aside, I doubt the Rangers would be looking to bolster the Flyers’ crease, but they have as great a need as any.
Winnipeg: This one is a little perplexing to me, as Connor Hellebuyck is one of the highest ceiling young goaltenders in the game. If they are ready to move on from him, the Rangers should strap on the snow tires and drive Raanta up there and bring Connor back. I could see a strategy where Raanta is brought in to take some of the pressure off the youngster, but their focus should be developing their franchise goalie.
Arizona: After offloading Mike Smith (and his contract!) on Calgary last week, the ‘Yotes are currently rostering only Louis Domingue between the pipes. Domingue is very talented, but suffered from inconsistency and a pretty terrible Arizona roster last year, so we don’t know how sold they are on the young French Canadian. Raanta could definitely be a fit here.
Vancouver: The Canucks could feel perfectly comfortable handing over the reigns to Jacob Markstrom, and there are rumors that Ryan Miler could be re-signed, but it seems like more of the same from one of the least effective front offices in the game. I like Markstrom, but his upside doesn’t justify his downside if his body mechanics get wacky. He has yet to really put it together and he isn’t exactly young anymore (27). However, big goalies take a little bit longer and could be more effective as he enters his late 20’s. Either way, Raanta could be a fit.
As I have discussed ad nauseum, especially in the context of trading Henrik Lundqvist, the return on goaltender trades has historically been a dumpster fire. However, trading for up and comers that have the potential to start, especially with futures as the return, has been historically better. Let’s take a look at a couple recent scenarios:
Frederik Anderson: Andersen was a 26 year old RFA when traded by the Ducks to the Leafs. He was able to net a late 1st and a 2nd. The Leafs immediately signed him to a five-year extension. I feel like this was a unique situation of a very young team looking for some stability in net. Could be Arizona or Buffalo in our scenario.
Martin Jones: Jones was a strange case, as he was first traded from LA to Boston in the Milan Lucic deal, then flipped back to San Jose in a separate trade for futures. He was obtained for a 1st round pick and Sean Curaly. Tough comparable here.
Brian Elliott: The Flames were seeking to capitalize off of Elliott’s shutdown playoffs for the Blues and were prepared to give him the starting job this season. We know how that movie ended, but he was cashed in for a 1st and 3rd round draft pick.
Scott Darling: Darling was a pending UFA that cost Carolina a 3rd round pick before he signed his extension. Not a great direct comparable, as Raanta has a year of control left.
Which, of course, brings us to our most direct comparable, Cam Talbot. His was last year’s Raanta in a pretty similar market. Fans walked away from that deal mostly disappointed, as Talbot only yielded a 2nd and 3rd (they swapped 7th’s) when he was dealt to Edmonton.
So, what should the expectation on a deal for Raanta be from the Rangers’ perspective? Since there not many truly goaltending hungry teams out there, I wouldn’t expect a king’s (no pun intended) random for Raanta. I would think it would involve two draft picks, one late first/early second rounder and a third or fourth. Maybe the trade partner has a young roster player worth discussing, but that is unlikely.
Who knows? Maybe they get creative and use Raanta as a sweetener. If Winnipeg is really interested, maybe he is an extra piece in a Jacob Trouba deal? Either way, I wouldn’t get too excited about restocking the prospect cupboard in any deal for the Ranger backup, but it does raise the question about whether the known quality of Raanta is more valuable to New York on the ice than his replacement and a couple of semi-valuable draft picks?
What do you think?