Antti Raanta ready if Blackhawks need him (but he hopes they don’t)Continue reading.
Antti Raanta thrilled to be back with Blackhawks at any price
PHILADELPHIA — Antti Raanta could have gone back to Europe, or maybe to Russia, and cashed in. He could have held out for a more lucrative qualifying offer from the Blackhawks. Heck, he probably could have coaxed a few more dollars out of the Hawks had he played a little hardball.
But Raanta’s not your typical pro athlete. He’s a little more introspective, a little more open, a little more aware of just how good he’s got it. And all he wanted to do was stay in Chicago. So when the Hawks offered him a two-year contract extension worth an average of $750,000 — less than he even made as a rookie — Raanta jumped at the chance.
“Money is not the biggest thing right now,” Raanta told the Sun-Times by phone from Finland. “I’m just 25 years old. There’s still hopefully plenty of years left in my career, so I can make some money later on. You can always think you can get a little bit more money, but I think we got a really good deal.”
Raanta, a star in his native Finland, was signed by the Hawks to a one-year, $1.4-million contract last summer, with a $925,000 base salary. He’ll make $700,000 this coming season, and $800,000 in 2015-16. After starting the year in Rockford, he entrenched himself on the Hawks roster after Nikolai Khabibulin was injured in November.
Raanta will return as Corey Crawford’s backup in goal. After being thrust into the starting role in November when Crawford was injured, he went 11-1-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average. But he played just nine games the rest of the season as Crawford shouldered the load, and finished 13-5-4 with a 2.71 GAA and a .897 save percentage.
“I’m really excited to come back and show what I’ve got,” he said. “The last half of the season, I wasn’t too happy with myself. I’m just preparing to be even better. I want to show everybody what I’ve got.”
Raanta was popular in the dressing room and solid on the ice, and awfully happy to be in Chicago.
“You can always go to Europe or Russia and they can maybe give you a little more money, but hey, then you don’t get a chance to play on one of the best teams and organizations in the NHL,” he said. “That’s the big thing. The Blackhawks were No. 1 all the time in my eyes.”
The Hawks also agreed to terms on two-year contract extensions with their other two restricted free agents — Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin. Smith’s deal is worth $1.5 million per season, while ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Morin’s is worth $800,000 a season.