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The Rangers should keep Raanta and Stalberg past this season

Bobby Bevilacqua

viktor stalberg shooting 10-13

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Jeff Gorton is going to have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, whether it be trading some of the big contracts currently on the team or finding a way to allocate money to all of the free agents. With all of the expiring contracts, that will be some of the hardest decisions he has to make. But two of the players that he should absolutely keep are Antti Raanta and Viktor Stalberg.

Both players were offseason acquisitions, and both have been pretty important members of the Rangers this season. Raanta took over the big void left by Cam Talbot, and Stalberg supplied a much needed presence in the bottom six.

Raanta has been largely solid for the Rangers in his first season here. Gorton traded prospect Ryan Haggerty to the Blackhawks and snatched the Finnish netminder to backup Henrik Lundqvist. Raanta has the same luxuries that Cam Talbot had in his time here, mainly learning from Lundqvist as well as goalie guru Benoit Allaire.

Raanta won four straight games to start the season, allowing five goals in four games, including two games with just one goal allowed as well a one shutout. He lost his next six games, two in overtime, despite playing well in three of those.

A big reason for his losses wound up being irregular playing time as well as injuries. Raanta was bothered by concussion-like symptoms after taking a shot to the mask in a game against the Minnesota Wild. He had a gap of over a month between his two starts, and then back issues forced him to miss nearly another month.

Since getting regular starts, Raanta has been a lot better, and has even stolen some games away lately. He’s won four of his last five starts, allowing two goals or less in all of the wins, and having only one setback against the Islanders. But to be fair, I don’t think many goaltenders would have had success with the defense that was being played in that game.

There’s really no positives out of a player getting injured, but if there was one surrounding Raanta, it’s the fact that he’ll be pretty cheap to re-sign. He hasn’t done enough to get a contract well over a million dollars, and I think it’ll be closer to the value of an entry level contract ($925k). If he’s asking much higher than that, there’s always Magnus Hellberg. But I don’t think it will come to that.

Viktor Stalberg has been one of my favorite offseason acquisitions, and his $1.1 million contract makes it even better. He’s not a prolific goal scorer, but he’s just a really well-rounded player. The best way to explain it is that he’s a poor man’s Chris Kreider. Stalberg has incredible speed that catches player’s off guard, he’s very strong on the forecheck and he has been used effectively in defensive roles and on the penalty kill.

So far, Stalberg has tallied 18 points (8-10-18) in 61 games. And while the numbers don’t look fantastic, Stalberg has been pretty unlucky at times, hitting the goalpost and getting robbed of some other chances. Granted, he doesn’t have the best hands so he doesn’t finish as much as some would expect, but he’s a very solid bottom six player who can stretch as a second liner when needed or if he’s having a good game.

Stalberg has also done a decent job of filling the void left by the departure of Carl Hagelin. Stalberg has a better 5v5 Points/60 rating (1.45 to 1.40) and a better 5v5 Primary Points/60 rating (1.09 to .86) than Carl Hagelin, and his Corsi For% of 47.50 is alright.

For $1.1 million, Stalberg is a bargain. And with a bit more luck and some better finishing, he could hit the 13-15 goal mark in a good year. Because of his versatility, his speed and his ability to produce more, Stalberg should be kept after this season.

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Posted on March 11, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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