As the Stanley Cup Final nears its conclusion and the National Hockey League’s expansion proceedings loom, the rumour mill is expected to kick into overdrive. Well, it has begun: the New York Post‘s longtime beat writer Larry Brooks is reporting that the Calgary Flames have made inquiries with the New York Rangers about backup netminder Antti Raanta.
If you take into account the situation teams are in regarding the expansion draft, trade discussions make a whole lot of sense for both sides.
The Flames have zero established NHL goaltenders signed for 2017-18, with both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson being pending unrestricted free agents. The biggest “names” on the goalie market – guys like Marc-Andre Fleury, Mike Smith, Cam Ward, Jimmy Howard and Jaroslav Halak – are all bad combinations of older and expensive, which is precisely why their present teams wish to move them. In terms of goalies that could be defined as what Brad Treliving likes to call “age group assets” – players that will be with the Flames as their core pieces mature into a contender – the list is pretty short: Raanta, Washington’s Philipp Grubauer and Colorado’s Calvin Pickard.
In the case of the Rangers, Raanta is arguably their most attractive asset that will be exposed in the expansion draft. The others include names like Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes, Kevin Klein and Nick Holden. Given that Raanta is playing behind Henrik Lundqvist, who’s signed for another four seasons and has a no-move deal, it’s incredibly likely that he’ll be exposed and claimed – unless the Rangers can convince Vegas that Grabner or Holden is the answer to all of their problems. If the Rangers do send Raanta away, they still have AHLer Mackenzie Skapski they can expose in the draft.
Plan B for the Rangers is swapping Raanta somewhere – ideally out-of-conference – for an asset instead of losing him to the Golden Knights for nothing. Based on the report of calls being made by the Flames, it seems increasingly likely that Plan B for the Rangers may be Plan A for the Flames.