Antti Raanta traded from Rangers to Coyotes before NHL Draft
Word had been leaking out for a week that the Arizona Coyotes were trying to pick up New York Rangers backup Antti Raanta and on Friday the deal was finalized, but only after the Rangers escaped the Expansion Draft on Wednesday without first losing him to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Despite a lot of the consternation in New York about losing such a valuable playing partner for aging No.1 Henrik Lundqvist to Vegas, the Rangers instead treaded Raanta to the Coyotes along with center Derek Stepan in exchange for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the No. 7 pick in the NHL Draft.
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) June 23, 2017
Raanta, 28, has been ably backing up Lundqvist for the past two seasons, posting a .921 in 55 games there and even getting starts ahead of the long-time Rangers star at points last season. New York acquired Raanta from Chicago in 2015 after the emergence of Scott Darling left no room on the roster. (It was a relationship that was not exactly happy at the end.) This month the Finn became something of a hot commodity, with at least the Coyotes and the Golden Knights in the picture looking to acquire him.
The trade for Raanta comes on the heels of a major shakeup in Arizona, one that saw the exit of not only head coach Dave Tippett but also their starting netminder for six seasons, Mike Smith. Now Raanta, 28, and Louis Domingue, 25, will have to battle it out for ice time.
In his two seasons working with Benoit Allaire in New York, Raanta made adjustments in his approach to his game, as he told InGoal Magazine in December. In addition to switching to the new cowling-free Bauer Supreme skates, which can significantly improve attack angle and make it easier and faster to quickly grab a push edge and move laterally, Raanta pulled in his depth quite a bit:
“I’d say that the biggest difference is when I look down at the toe of my skate, I now see blue in front of it. A few inches of blue crease are in front of my skate now, [Allaire] told me that pulling in that little bit just gives me more control. If someone tries to go back door and score it’s much easier to get back and protect your net if you’re inside your crease more.”
It’s unclear how the Coyotes see their goaltending tandem working out. Although Tippett has been bought out by the team reports at this time are assistant coaches, including goaltending coach Jon Elkin, have not been let go. Elkin was brought on board in 2015 specifically to work with Smith, who has long been a private client in the offseason, and was quietly promoted from part to full time last season.
Despite being 6-feet tall, Raanta is a goalie many see as capable of a bigger work load, perhaps even a starter’s job. But he’s only under contract for this season at a bargain $1 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent, so if he gets that chance in Arizona and succeeds, they still have to re-sign him.
Raanta’s move also means the Rangers need someone new to spell Lundqvist next season.
With two other moves already on NHL Draft day, including Cal Petersen opting for free agency instead of signing with the Buffalo Sabres, and Anton Forsberg going from Columbus to Chicago, the game of goaltending musical chairs might continue with more trades before free agency on July 1.
Among the other candidates to move in a trade could be Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals, who like Raanta was seen as an important asset to protect, but may price himself out of the Capitals salary cap situation as a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.