Blackhawks trade goalie Antti Raanta to New York Rangers

SHARE Blackhawks trade goalie Antti Raanta to New York Rangers
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Antti Raanta had a .936 save percentage and was 7-4-1 with the Hawks this season. (Sun-Times Photo)

SUNRISE, Fla. — Antti Raanta proved this season he deserved a job in the NHL. But once he saw Scott Darling take his spot, then sign a two-year contract extension, Raanta knew it wasn’t going to be in Chicago.

“I knew something was going on the whole time,” Raanta said by phone on Saturday. “At the trade deadline, I was expecting something to happen after that. It was a little bit in my mind, all the time.”

The Blackhawks’ No. 3 goaltender became the Rangers’ No. 2 on Saturday, when Raanta was traded to New York for AHL forward Ryan Haggerty. Darling’s remarkable rise throughout the season, which started with a breakout training camp and ended with his name on the Stanley Cup, made Raanta expendable. But Raanta will go from one big city to another, and one perennial contender to another. In New York, he’ll likely back up Henrik Lundqvist after Cam Talbot was traded to Edmonton earlier in the day.

“At first you get a little bit excited, because it’s a great opportunity,” Raanta said. “But it’s a little sad, also. It’s a great organization in Chicago, and everybody has been great to me. They gave me an opportunity to play hockey, and to win the Stanley Cup. But I’m looking forward and I’m excited to go to New York and get a fresh start again.”

Haggerty, a 22-year-old, 6-foot, 200-pound forward, had 15 goals and 18 assists in 76 games with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack last season after three years of college hockey at RPI. He has not played in an NHL game.

The trade doesn’t alleviate the Hawks’ salary-cap concerns, but the Hawks also are very high on Swedish goaltender Anders Nilsson, who had a strong season in the KHL, and could replace Raanta on the organizational depth chart. Re-signing Michael Leighton, who will be an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, is another option.

At the time he was sent down to Rockford in February to make room for Darling, there wasn’t a goalie in the NHL with a higher save percentage (.936) or a lower goals-against average (1.89) than Raanta. He was 7-4-1 with the Hawks, and went 8-1-1 with Rockford. But with Corey Crawford entrenched as the starter, and Darling a favorite of Joel Quenneville, there simply wasn’t room on the NHL roster for Raanta.

The trade was bittersweet for Raanta, but he perked up when he was reminded that the Rangers open the season at the United Center, meaning he’ll be there for the Hawks’ banner-raising ceremony.

“Wow, that’s going to be nice,” he said. “That’s going to be fun. That’s good to know right now. All the fans in Chicago, how they have treated me, it’ll be nice to be there on that day. Hopefully they put me in the net and I can show what I have.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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