The Hurricanes completely remade their goaltending picture yesterday by signing two new netminders, one of which was Finnish goalie Antti Raanta to a two-year deal worth $2 million AAV.
Raanta’s had some strong runs over his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Arizona Coyotes, but has dealt with some injury problems over the past few seasons. He’s hoping that’s behind as he comes to Raleigh and looks to regain his form and prove he can be a top NHL goalie.
Raanta spoke to the media via Zoom on Thursday, here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say:
On his fit with the Hurricanes and his decision to sign: Obviously it’s a young, talented team. Lots of skill, great coaching, so when I heard that Carolina was interested, it was a pretty easy decision to get the deal done. I’m obviously grateful to get that opportunity to come to Carolina and prove that I can be a top goalie in this league. Obviously you need to have a good team in front of you, so I’m really looking forward to see and meet the guys, and obviously start playing behind those guys. So it’s going to be awesome.
On if he has prior relationships with Hurricanes players and if he’s spoken to any of his new teammates: Yeah, I talked with [Teuvo Teravainen], and then obviously Jesper Fast, who I played with in New York for a couple years, and then Jordan Martinook is also one of those guys who I played with in Arizona. So I’ve been hearing a lot of good things. Obviously Teuvo and then [Sebastian Aho] also, a couple of Finns there, so hopefully that helps me to adjust to the lifestyle there.
On playing a big workload: I feel like every goalie who can play a lot of games, you can always improve when you get that next chance quickly. If you have a bad game, you just jump right in and keep playing. I think the workload and everything else, in Arizona I got a chance to play a lot of games. Obviously there was a little bit too many small injuries and obviously a little bit bigger one. Hopefully I can play a lot of games. We haven’t really talked, I only talked with the head coach and the goalie coach for a little bit today, so I haven’t talked too much about the structure and what the plan is, but I think we will figure that out in a month or so. When things start rolling, I think if I can play at a good level, hopefully I can get a lot of games and help the team to win.
On the best part of his skillset: I’m not the biggest guy in the league, so I know that. … Obviously you have to read the plays before they happen. Reading the plays, that also helps you to react to what’s going to happen. I think that I’ve always been really good at moving in the crease and being a quick goalie. Obviously I have lots of flexibility also, so I can do little splits here and there. I think it’s just the small goalie package, moving well, reading the plays. Here and there, maybe make some highlight reel saves, at least try those. But obviously you try to just go with the games and just play how the game comes to you. You don’t want to be over playing things, you just want to stay calm and wait for the plays to come to you and then react. I think that’s kind of what my game’s going to be. Hopefully I can bring back that old me from a couple years ago. I think the last couple years, I’ve been playing a little bit differently or at least it feels like that, so hopefully I can get that confidence back and trust myself, make the saves whenever I need to.
On the Hurricane’s defense: When you see the guys who are in front of me and all the D there, and obviously even if you have a great defense, you still need your forwards to work hard to come back and help you in your own zone. I think the Hurricanes have been that kind of team for a couple years now. What I’ve been seeing, everyone is working hard, everyone is coming back. There’s no quit on that team. So like I said to the head coach, it’s probably a goalie’s dream to play behind that kind of team. So I can’t really wait to see how it feels to play behind that team. Hopefully I can also help those guys with a couple big saves here and there and be successful that way.
On his injury history: I think when I hurt my knee and got the surgery, I think after that it just felt like nothing that I was trying to do really worked how I wanted it to. I then started to feel some pinches and things somewhere else other than the knee and when the knee was okay then something else came out. I’ve felt like it’s been like the snowball has been rolling in the wrong direction for a little bit now. I’ve been trying every offseason, every season, to get some new stuff for me and learn from those things what has happened. This offseason I’ve been doing a little bit different things again and hopefully just try to feel good. Obviously when you’re a goalie you just want to stay healthy. I mean, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a goalie or player, everyone wants to stay healthy. Nobody wants to be on the injured list. But you just try to forget that those things happened and you just try to get a fresh start and just go out and have fun again. Don’t think too much. If you think about injuries all the time, you’ll get hurt for sure because that’s in your mind. I just try to block those memories and get a fresh new start now.
On how his experiences as a veteran goaltender help him along in his career: The first two years in Chicago, you get the chance to see what that winning culture is. Top level guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Corey Crawford in net. I just felt like I was so young at that time, so I really didn’t know how to react to all the stuff. I felt like everything just flew by and I was just like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ Then I got the chance to go to New York and play behind Henrik [Lundqvist]. Even though I’m a Finnish guy, it was kind of a cool place to go and be behind that kind of Swedish master. He is the King and it was just so much fun. His work ethic from practice to the games, everything. If we lost a game in a shootout, he’d take shootouts for half an hour the next day at practice. That just shows he never wants to lose, he always wants to get better and sometimes I’d be done after one hour of practice and he’d just keep going and do some drills at the other end so I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I have to go to the other end and do something.’ It was just an awesome experience both in Chicago and New York and I think that kind of brought something new to myself also. Sometimes when you are having a bad day or something like that, you just try to remember those things and go forward with a smile on your face the next day and work hard and have fun. Those are the two big things for a goalie. If you’re all the time in a bad mood like that, you’re not going to make those saves either. I think you just have to keep smiling and be happy and play the game because you love the game. So that’s the biggest thing.
On his biggest influences growing up: I think starting out, it was Martin Brodeur. He was the biggest. Back in the days when you only saw the 15 minute highlight reels every Saturday morning, obviously Brodeur was there with the top saves and stuff like that. Dominik Hasek, he had a bit of a different style than everyone else but he was really effective. But probably growing up a little bit more, Pekka Rinne and Tuuka Rask were the guys who you looked forward to see play and when you got to play against those guys it was kind of an unreal feeling. But I think when I went to New York and got the chance to be with Henrik, I think that was kind of something where I was like, ‘I really need to pay attention to what this guy is doing.’ He had been in the top of the league for so many years, so I really needed to look at him and learn something. But there’s been a mixture of different goalies, but for not being the tallest guy in the league, you kind of have to have a mixed playing style to be successful. But from Finland, there’s lots of great goaltenders from here, so you can’t go wrong if you only wanted to follow one guy.
On what the players on the team he had spoken to said about playing in Carolina: Obviously, they started about Brind’Amour. They said that he’s a fair guy who wants everyone working hard. If you’re not working hard, you’re not going to be playing and I think that sounds like a great place. If you’re building that kind of culture in the team and the organization, then I think that’s the best way to do it. Teuvo pretty much told me that Raleigh is a great place to live. I have two kids, so that’s going to be huge for me and my family to come there and have that smaller city style of living. Marty was pretty much saying that it’s a crazy place to play. The fans are crazy and after the win everyone is doing the Storm Surge. Right now, I’m just itching to get there and get things going and meet all the guys and start working hard towards the ultimate dream of winning the cup. I feel like the team is built that way, where if we can take that one extra step in the playoffs, then I think we’re really close to the Stanley Cup. It’s going to be a fun journey and I just need to keep working hard till I get there and be ready when camp starts to show what I can bring to the team.