According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, it may be the tale of two Finns in the Minnesota Wild net. Per Russo, Minnesota is one of a few teams heavily pursuing late-blooming goalie Antti Raanta.
Raanta, 24, represented Finland in this year’s World Championships and went 21-10-11 with a 1.85 goals against average and .943 save percentage this season in the SM-liiga with Assat Pori. That alone would earn him league MVP and Best Goalie awards. In the playoffs, his play only got better as he posted a 1.45 goals against average and .955 save percentage in claiming the Jari Kurri Trophy (essentially the Conn Smythe). It was an incredible season for him and he won nearly everything he could have possibly won.
Russo does stress that the signing of Raanta is not to replace No. 1 Niklas Backstrom, though it is hoped his signing would be of the same impact—another undrafted Finnish free agent goaltender that can be a long term plan in net for Minnesota. However, if that is the case, it brings into question how much confidence Minnesota has in the goalies in the system. Backstrom is getting older and more injury prone, Harding is just reaching his prime but now has MS, Hackett is no longer in the system, Kuemper and Gustafsson are both very talented but very young and Michalek is nowhere close to the pros.
Jonathan Willis of The Edmonton Journal offered his thoughts on Raanta:
Raanta is an exceptionally attractive option for NHL teams thanks to a remarkable season in Finland this year, one that saw him win the league MVP awards in both the regular season and the playoffs as he led Assat to the SM-liiga title. His 0.943 save percentage puts him in elite company – it’s the second-best in recorded history, behind only Tim Thomas’ work in 2004-05, and well ahead of a number of goaltenders who have gone on to enjoy distinguished NHL careers. He’s likely ready for NHL duty immediately, and could do what Viktor Fasth did in Anaheim this season: step right out of Europe and compete for a starting job in the NHL.
Earlier today, Raanta tweeted:
— Antti Raanta (@AnttiRaanta) May 31, 2013
Is it Minnesota? We’ll know soon as the earliest he can sign will be tomorrow. Both Edmonton and Winnipeg are also reportedly interested in Raanta’s services. Gone Puck Wild will keep you updated as the situation develops.