The Blackhawks announced on Monday they have signed 24-year old Antti Raanta to a one-year contract. Raanta, a native of Rauma, Finland, was an unrestricted free agent coming off a great season for Assat Pori of the Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga).
Raanta led his team to the league's championship, was named an All-Star and won the "Urpo Ylonen Award" for best goaltender, "Lasse Oksanen Award" for most valuable player in the regular season and "Jarri Kurri Award" for most valuable player in the playoffs. Raanta went 21-10-11 and recorded five shutouts in 45 games for Assat this season and finished with a 1.85 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
He bettered those numbers in 16 playoff games by posting a 1.33 GAA with a .955 save percentage. Playing five seasons in SM-liiga split between Lukko Rauma and Assat Pori, Raanta has compiled a 48-27-16 record.
It's an interesting signing by the Blackhawks, whose tandem of starter Corey Crawford and backup Ray Emery earned the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in the NHL -- both having fantastic seasons while splitting starts for much of the season.
A lower-body injury caused Emery to miss the final stretch of the regular season and Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, which made Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville's starting goalie decision easy.
Crawford has started all 14 postseason games Chicago has played, going 10-4 with one loss in overtime.
After making 29 saves in a 4-2 victory on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings in the conference final, a series Chicago now leads 2-0, Crawford's 1.67 GAA is the best among goalies with at least five starts in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His .938 save percentage is second only to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's .940 mark.
Crawford has one year left on his contract, which comes with a reported $2.6 million cap hit according to capgeek.com. Emery and system goalies Henrik Karlsson and Carter Hutton will all become UFAs in July if they don't reach deals to extend their stay with the Blackhawks or in the Chicago system.
According to general managers and agents who scout the European market regularly, Raanta is seen as a good prospect and strong signing for the Blackhawks. The 6-foot, 182 pound netminder has proven himself extensively in his home country and in international play.
Raanta played seven games for Finland in the recently-concluded 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championship, finishing with a 2.09 GAA and .928 save percentage. Now, he's looking for his shot in the NHL.
How soon he'll get that chance remains to be seen, but it sure seems like next year in Chicago could be a possibility given the one-year deal, his age and talent.