They say two’s company, three’s a crowd.
And so it seemed to be with the Hurricanes, who said goodbye to last season’s goaltending trio of Petr Mrazek, Alex Nedeljkovic and James Reimer and welcomed the new tandem of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta in their place on Wednesday at the opening of free agency.
While 318 career wins left with the departure of last year’s netminders, the new goaltending duo has totaled 319 — with nearly 70 fewer losses.
Carolina hopes it’s an upgrade, one that can push them deeper in the playoffs and to a Stanley Cup.
In Andersen, the Hurricanes get a goalie who has twice received votes for the Vezina Trophy, including a fourth-place finish in 2018. Furthermore, since entering the league in 2013-14, only four goalies — Braden Holtby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky — have more wins than Andersen’s 226.
But the bright lights and constant criticism that Andersen faced in Toronto the last five years tarnished what are otherwise great career numbers over eight NHL seasons: a 226-100-48 record, .915 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average. He stumbled the past two seasons with the Maple Leafs, falling all the way to an. 895 save percentage this year and losing the starting job to journeyman Jack Campbell.
“I think last year was a difficult year personally,” Andersen said Thursday in a call with the media, “and dealing with some injuries, I wasn’t able to play the way I wanted to. I definitely feel very motivated to get back to that level again.”
The Hurricanes are of course familiar with Andersen, who was a 2010 seventh-round pick by the team in the same year it also selected Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk.
But Andersen never signed with Carolina, saying Thursday that the team’s “busy net” featuring Cam Ward didn’t present a path for him to reach the NHL. He opted to reenter the draft in 2012 instead and was selected by Anaheim in the third round.
“It wasn’t ever about not playing in Carolina or anything like that,” Andersen said. “It was more that the net was, like I said, pretty busy, so that was obviously very different career paths looking back. But I thought it was the right move at the time and, obviously, I’ve had a good career so far.”
Eleven years later — on a two-year deal with an average salary of $4.5 million — he’ll have a clear path to the No. 1 job in Raleigh.
The one person who could stand in his way is Raanta — if he can stay healthy.
The 32-year-old — who checks in at 6 feet compared to Andersen’s 6-foot-4 — has always been a sound positional goalie with the talent to be one of the top goalies in the world. But a string of injuries limited him to just 12 games this past season in Arizona.
“I feel like it’s just been like this snowball has been rolling in the wrong direction for a little bit now,” Raanta said in his call with the media Thursday.
When Raanta gets rolling the right way, however, he can be dominant.
His best season was in 2017-18, his first in Arizona. After struggling through the first three months of the year following a trade from the Rangers (he was part of a deal that sent Tony DeAngelo, who also signed with Carolina Wednesday, to New York), he went on a tear the rest of the way and was 16-6-4 with a .936 save percentage for a team that finished with the third-worst record in the league.
He has struggled to get back to that level in recent years.
“I’ve been playing a little bit differently, or at least it feels like that,” Raanta said. “So hopefully I can get that confidence back and trust myself and make the saves whenever I need to.”
Raanta — who will make an average of $2 million a year over the next two seasons — said playing behind a team with Stanley Cup aspirations should help him regain form.
“When I when I heard that Carolina was interested, it was kind of a pretty easy decision to get the deal done,” he said.
He said he’s tried different offseason training methods in an effort to stay healthy and hopes to shake off his injury struggles.
“If you think about the injuries all the time, then something will hurt for sure,” he said. “That’s in your mind. So I just try to try to block those memories and get a fresh new start now.”
And if all else fails?
“Work hard and have fun. I think those are the two big things for a goalie.”