It’ll be a completely new goaltender room for the Carolina Hurricanes this coming season, as Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta enter the fold to replace Petr Mrazek, Alex Nedeljkovic and James Reimer.
The Canes signed Andersen and Raanta on the opening day of free agency, filling the void left by a trade of the restricted free agent Nedeljkovic and the departure of two UFAs in Mrazek and Reimer.
Both Andersen and Raanta have had some ups and downs in their NHL careers, and now both will look to find an up with a young Hurricanes’ core still very much ready to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Here’s a deeper look at both of the two new netminders that will man the pipes in PNC Arena this fall:
- Contract: Two Years, $9 million ($4.5 million AAV)
- 2021 Stats: 23 GS, 13-8-3, 2.96 GAA, .895 SV%
- Career Stats: 381 GS, 226-100-48, 2.65 GAA, .915 SV%
- Career Playoff Stats: 53 GS, 27-23-0, 2.55 GAA, .916 SV%
- Awards/Honors: 2013-14 All-Rookie Team, 2015-16 William M. Jennings Trophy
The more expensive of the two free agent goalies the Canes inked on the opening day of free agency, Andersen has a bit of history with the organization.
Andersen was originally drafted by Carolina in the seventh round of the 2010 NHL Draft, but couldn’t come to terms with the team and re-entered the draft in 2012, where he was selected in the third round by the Anaheim Ducks.
Since then it’s been a bit of a mixed bag in the NHL for Andersen, who had some great seasons in Anaheim, which earned him a five-year, $25 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In Toronto, Andersen has had mixed results, and has really struggled the past two seasons between the pipes for the Leafs.
At his best, Andersen has been a 35-plus game winner, and a 60-game starter with a GAA in the 2.30s and a save percentage pushing .920. At his worst, Andersen has had a GAA nearing 3.00 and a sub-.900 save percentage (both of those career lows coming in 2021).
For the Canes, the hope has to be that the ceiling is still high on Andersen, who is only 31 and had a very good season just a couple years ago in 2018-19. That year Andersen had a goals saved above average of 12.59, the highest of his career, and a goals saved above expected of 8.42. In 2017-18, Andersen finished the season in double digits in both GSAA and GSAx, with both those tallies putting him among the top 17 of all NHL goaltenders.
Andersen isn’t particularly great against high-danger chances, with a career high-danger save percentage of .781, a career best of .795 in 2018-19 and a career worst of .763 last year (for context, Igor Shesterkin led NHL goalies with more than 20 starts in 2021 with an. 876).
He’s projected to be in just the 51st percentile in WAR this coming season, and he was one of the worst goalies in the league in great starts, high-danger save percentage and on the penalty kill last year.
All that’s to say that Andersen has been trending in the wrong direction over the last two seasons, but still isn’t too far removed from some pretty good hockey. The 2018-19 season, which featured the 12.59 GSAA, 8.42 GSAx and the .795 high-danger save percentage, was just three years ago, and it was one of his best seasons.
He also has a ton of playoff experience, with 53 playoff games started over his career and a 2.55 GAA and .916 save percentage. Yes, the Maple Leafs haven’t exactly had the most playoff success in the world, but Andersen certainly wasn’t the issue most of those years. He also led the Ducks to a Western Conference Final back in 2015.
There’s a lot of risk with Andersen, who simply hasn’t performed at the level he showed earlier in his career the last two years. But there’s also the potential for a high reward in Andersen, who at times during his NHL life has been a top-half goalie in the league.
The $4.5 million AAV price tag may be a tough one to swallow for Canes fans, especially considering the departures and contracts of Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic, but the Andersen signing shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. There’s a serious upside to bringing in a guy who has done it before, and could benefit from a change of scenery.
Andersen, who said he’s ready to compete for a cup with the Hurricanes, is excited about the opportunity to finally get to play in the NHL for the team that originally drafted him 11 years ago and show that he is still the goalie that he once was. .
“I’m really excited that they were interested in me and obviously want to prepare and then get back to the level I know I can play at,” Andersen said. “I think last year was a difficult year personally, and dealing with some injuries, I wasn’t able to play the way I wanted to. I definitely feel very motivated to get back to that level again.”
- Contract: Two Years, $4 million ($2 million AAV)
- 2021 Stats: 11 GS, 5-5-2, 3.36 GAA, .905 SV%
- Career Stats:179 GS, 93-65-20, 2.46 GAA, .919 SV%
- Career Playoff Stats: 0 GS (5 GP), 0-1-0, 3.59 GAA, .846 SV%
While the money might suggest that the Canes brought Raanta in to be the backup to Andersen, that’s likely not going to be the case as a fairly even goaltending tandem seems like the move for Carolina.
And what Raanta brings to that tandem is some consistently great numbers in a career that has been somewhat sidetracked by the injury bug. Raanta has had lower-body injuries both in 2021 and in 2019 that sidelined him for a big chunk of the season, with him appearing in just 12 games both of those years.
But apart from that, Raanta has been consistently really good during his NHL career. His eight-year GAA is 2.46 with a .919 save percentage, and he’s never had a season where he appeared in more than 12 games with a GAA over 2.71.
Other than his rookie year back in 2013-14 (and excluding the very small sample size years in 2021 and 2018-19), Raanta has put up really strong numbers. His goals saved above average and goals saved above expected have both been in the positive every year except those three, and he has a career high-danger save percentage of .813.
His best NHL season came in 2017-18, his first with the Arizona Coyotes, and he was one of the best goalies in the league during that campaign. He started 46 games for the Coyotes, posting a 21-17-6 record with a 2.24 GAA and .930 save percentage.
His 2.24 GAA led all goalies with more than 30 games started, and his .930 save percentage also ranked first among those with 30 or more starts. His GSAA of 24.51 led the NHL that season, and his 25.14 GSAx placed him third behind just John Gibson and Jonathan Quick.
And while that 2017-18 season was Raanta’s best, it certainly wasn’t his only good campaign. He’s posted a sub-2.30 GAA three times in his career, and he’s exceeded a .920 save percentage four times.
“Annti Raanta, his track record, if you look at his numbers he’s been unbelievable,” said general manager Don Waddell. “He’s run into some injuries the last couple of years. We went through the whole process, as we do with every player that we sign. We really feel that with the right training, which he’s doing now, and working with our team here, that he can stay healthy. If you go back and look at him for the last five or six years, his numbers are outstanding. We felt very comfortable with making that decision.”
Looking ahead, the value for Raanta seems like an absolutely great one for the Hurricanes. He’s projected to be high in the league in WAR, and is among the top guys in quality starts, great starts, rebound control, high-danger save percentage and more.
*NOTE: This graphic was tweeted prior to the official confirmation of Raanta’s contract, so contains incorrect contract information. Raanta’s deal is $2Mx2*
If there’s two areas of concern for Raanta it’s the injury history and the complete lack of playoff experience. As for the injuries, as Waddell said, you just have to hope that your strength staff can do what needs to be done to keep Raanta healthy.
As for the lack of playoff experience, that’s something you hope Raanta will learn with experience in the next few years. So far in his career he’s appeared in just five playoff games, starting none.
Still, there’s a lot to like about Raanta if you’re a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s a guy that has done nothing but produce during his NHL career, and he hasn’t exactly been playing behind the best defense in the league the last few years with the Coyotes.
Raanta’s experience and success makes it seem like the right decision to play him in an even-split tandem with Andersen, and that’s something Raanta isn’t worried about. He’s started no more than 46 games in a season during his career, and he’s started more than 30 just twice. Still, a likely increased workload isn’t something Raanta is concerned with.
“I feel like every goalie can play a lot of games, you can always improve when you get that next chance quickly,” Raanta said. “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.”
The Hurricanes cleared house and went a completely different route with their goaltending tandem, and only time will tell if that decision will bring an improvement to the product on the ice or not.
And while there’s definitely reason for concern with Andersen’s last two years and Raanta’s injuries, there’s also a lot of reason for optimism with what these two guys can bring to the team.
With Raanta you get a consistent producer between the pipes, who when healthy is going to give the team a really good chance to win night in and night out. With Andersen you get a high-upside guy who has played really good hockey in the past, with the hope that he can recapture that level in a Canes jersey.
While the departures of Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic, while both somewhat questionable and both bringing a certain sting for Canes fans, haven’t been the most widely popular moves, this new goaltending tandem does have the chance to be very good.
What matters, of course, isn’t what they’ve done in the past though, but what they do come October when they put on a Carolina sweater.