The Chicago Blackhawks have acquired forward Ryan Haggerty from the New York Rangers in exchange for goaltender Antti Raanta, the team announced Saturday. The move comes not long after the conclusion of the 2015 NHL Draft, which saw the team make seven picks but fail to trade any of its highly paid forwards.
Raanta, 26, was the Blackhawks' backup goaltender during parts of the past two seasons before the emergence of Scott Darling. Now the team is set at the position with Crawford and Darling for the foreseeable future, making Raanta expendable despite his solid play and positive locker room presence.
In exchange for their third-string goaltender, the Blackhawks get Haggerty, a 22-year-old who spent the 2014-15 season with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. Originally signed to an entry-level deal as an undrafted free agent out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in March 2014, he recorded 15 goals and 18 assists during his first pro season.
The Hawks will need more depth at forward once other deals for players like Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell go down, so it makes sense that GM Stan Bowman would seek out affordable pieces to help ease the transition. Haggerty isn't considered a top prospect but could be useful on a team that'll need bodies next season, and otherwise will provide another steady hand in Rockford for now.
One reason that Raanta may have been expendable is the presence of Anders Nilsson, who has expressed an interest in returning to North American hockey after playing in the KHL last season. Chicago acquired the talented 25-year-old's rights last year as part of the Nick Leddy trade and could bring him in as the third-string goaltender behind Crawford and Darling. Part of why Nilsson left the NHL in the first place was his frustration with not being given a more prominent role by the Islanders, but maybe the Blackhawks can convince him to accept the situation.
Raanta will likely become the backup goaltender for the Rangers behind Henrik Lundqvist after the trade of Cam Talbot on Saturday. The goaltender definitely has NHL talent, with a .912 save percentage and 2.41 GAA in 39 games with the Blackhawks, and will be missed by a lot of Hawks fans. During the 2014-15 season, he was very good, posting a .936 save percentage and 1.89 GAA in 14 games.
Raanta was also a fantastic presence around the team, something many writers quickly pointed out following the announcement of the trade. He helped make a young Teuvo Teravainen comfortable in the locker room along with fellow Finn Kimmo Timonen. Adding Haggerty is a sensible move, one that helps the team, but we'll all definitely miss Raanta.