Blackhawks strengthen goaltending depth
Suddenly, Corey Crawford has a little more pressure on him in Chicago.
CHICAGO -- As one netminder leads the Blackhawks deep into the 2013
post-season, the organization has landed another via free agency.
On Monday morning, with the first two games of the Western Conference
Final in the rear view mirror, the Chicago Blackhawks announced they
had agreed to a one-year deal with coveted Finnish goaltender Antti
Raanta, 24, led Assat Pori to the SM-liiga title with a 1.45
goals-against-average and .955 save percentage, and was named the
league's playoff MVP. He became eligible to sign with an NHL team on
June 1, and tweeted that he had made a decision on Friday.
Minnesota and Edmonton were both reportedly in the mix to sign Raanta,
but he selected Chicago as his future NHL home.
This signing is an intriguing one for the Blackhawks, who won the
Presidents' Trophy in 2013. Corey Crawford, who has been superb in the
2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, has only one-year remaining on his current
contract with a modest $2.667M cap hit.
The Blackhawks not only needed a back-up for Crawford in 2013-14, but
they have long term financial obligation to keep in mind.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are both two years away from
unrestricted free agency, and retaining the two faces of the franchise
will be the top priorities of Chicago GM Stan Bowman.
Crawford will share the Jennings Trophy with Ray Emery, who is an
unrestricted free agent this summer. Emery has come back from hip
surgery in remarkable fashion, and had a fantastic regular season
(1.94 GAA, .922 save percentage).
Henrik Karlsson, acquired from Calgary during the 2013 season, Carter
Hutton and Alec Richards are also unrestricted free agent goaltenders
in the Chicago system.
This summer, the Blackhawks will also have a number of other key free
agents to consider.
Bryan Bickell, who is making a name for himself in these playoffs, and
Viktor Stalberg are both unrestricted free agents and could command
dollars -- and years -- the Blackhawks can't match on the open market.
Penalty kill ace Marcus Kruger and young defenseman Nick Leddy are
both restricted free agents this summer as well, both leaving their
respective entry-level deals behind.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have also used recent draft picks on a
couple young goaltenders that performed well in juniors this year.
Mac Carruth, and 7th round pick by Chicago in 2010, led the Portland
Winterhawks to the Memorial Cup final with a 30-7-2 record and a .929
save percentage in the WHL. Brandon Whitney, a 7th round pick in 2012,
posted a 27-20-6 record with Victoriaville in the QMJHL this year.