On June 15 he and his fellow Chicago Blackhawk teammates raised the Stanley Cup after knocking off the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Final at the United Center. Following several days of celebrating the championship in Chicago, Raanta returned to his native Finland where on June 27 he found out that he had been traded to the New York Rangers. Shortly after that big news, in early July, came his wedding day, which was followed by a honeymoon on a small island in Greece with his bride, Anna.
Now back home in Finland Raanta discussed his recent life-changing events exclusively with BlueshirtsUnited.com on Thursday afternoon.
"It was a pretty amazing stretch, so many great things going on, but now life is back to normal," said the personable Raanta. "To get that phone call, to get traded in the middle of all that, it's just all pretty amazing. I think the honeymoon was the first time I had the chance to relax and realize what has happened the last few weeks. Now it's time to focus on hockey, and I am so excited to be a part of the New York Rangers organization."
Contrary to what one may believe, Raanta was not upset or disappointed to get "that phone call" informing him he had been traded to the Blueshirts despite the afterglow of having just won his first Stanley Cup and with such an important life milestone just days away.
"I was really excited when I got that phone call (from Chicago General Manager Stan Bowman) and they told me I had been traded to New York," explained the 26 year-old goaltender. "I was so excited. I was ready to pack my bags and come right there and start playing hockey right away."
Raanta, who won the regular season MVP and post-season MVP awards while backstopping Assat to the Finnish League championship in 2012-13, split 2014-15 between Chicago and the minor leagues, eventually being the odd man out in goal with the Blackhawks as Scott Darling emerged to become Corey Crawford's primary back up and then some during Chicago's run to the 2015 Stanley Cup.
Despite this Raanta finished the past season with a sterling 1.89 GAA and .936 save percentage in 14 games at the NHL level, and had the chance to raise Lord Stanley's chalice. That followed a strong rookie campaign the year before when Raanta was 13-5-4 over 25 appearances. Raanta's first season was highlighted by being named the NHL's Rookie of the Month in December of 2013.
It was this strong resume which led the Rangers front office to go out and acquire Raanta, bringing him to New York to battle for the right to serve as Henrik Lundqvist's back up this year.
"Sometimes I think it's just good to have a fresh start in a new city and with a new team," stated Raanta. "I can't imagine what would be a better place to come than New York. So me and my wife are so excited about the opportunity that is there. I can't wait to get down there and start playing hockey."
While many aspects of being traded to the Rangers intrigue Raanta--from being a part of another winning organization which is also an Original Six franchise, to a fresh start, to getting the chance to tour New York City with his bride--one that really stands out is the opportunity to work alongside Lundqvist and learn up close from one of hockey's premier goaltenders.
"I have always watched him, and everyone in the NHL knows that he's one of the best goalies in the world," Raanta said of Lundqvist. "I have heard a lot of great things about him, so to see what he does differently and to learn what he's doing better than me and how he prepares every day, I think that's a really nice situation for me to have that kind of goalie in front of me. My job is to push him to his limits, too, of course, but it will be great to learn from Henrik--learn how to be the best player on the ice always."
The 6-foot-1 Raanta knows that nothing is being handed to him, that he will have to win the back up job in training camp, likely battling fellow newcomer, 24 year-old Magnus Hellberg who was picked up from Nashville in a trade on July 1. He is fine with that, and believes he knows exactly what the Rangers need from their back up.
"I want to be that guy you can rely on, come in and win games, while pushing Henrik every day, challenging him to be his best," explained Raanta. "I am ready to go to work, and can't wait to arrive in New York later this summer. This is a great situation for me and I am really excited by the opportunity."