With the Stanley Cup Final kicking off last night in Chicago, yesterday was a perfect time to post this month’s update of the NHL Depth Charts.
There has already been some “off-season” movement throughout the league, as the Blackhawks, despite being busy with their run for Lord Stanley’s Cup, have signed Finnish superstar Antti Raanta to an entry-level contract. The signing of Raanta came at a time when the entire goalie world was focused on the recent decision by the Canadian Hockey League to ban European goalies from entering their league (starting next season). Raanta dominated the SM-liiga this past season, winning just about every award imaginable for a goalie: the league championship, the playoff MVP award, and the Goalie of the Year award.
But with no experience playing on the smaller ice, it's unclear exactly how hard he'll be able to push Corey Crawford, who was spectacular and durable in last night's 4-3 win over Boston in triple overtime of Game 1. Either way, Raanta is locked in, so the Blackhawks will look to have lightning strike twice, just like it did with Antti Niemi a few short years ago.
In other depth chart movement, the Winnipeg Jets lost pending UFA Mark Dekanich to the KHL, the Flames lost pending UFA Danny Taylor to the Swedish Elite League, and the Islanders decided not to toll Tim Thomas’ contract, making him a full-fledged UFA. And although it can't be made official until July 5 (first day of free agency), it sounds like Calgary has agreed to terms with KHL All-Star and Finnish phenom Karri Ramo.
There was also some significant movement in the coaching realm over the past few weeks, which has a significant impact on the overall performance of goalies around the league.
In Anaheim, Pete Peeters formally announced his expected retirement, which allowed the Ducks to promote Dwayne Roloson to head goalie coach. It's unclear if the Ducks will add a second or assistant goalie coach to the fold, but the odds are good. The biggest splash, however, came in Colorado. Just a few days after Patrick Roy was hired to be the head coach, it was announced that Francois Allaire had signed a three-year deal to be the team's part-time goalie coach. Allaire will most likely implement a system that includes an assistant goalie coach, which transforms Colorado from a goalie graveyard to a goalie gold mine.
While good things were happening in Colorado, a team that is re-establishing a winning tradition, it was an entirely different story in Montreal. In what came as a bit of a surprise, goalie coach Pierre Groulx was not brought back to work with Carey Price and Peter Budaj. Vincent Riendeau is staying on board, but it's unclear if he will be promoted, or if GM Marc Bergevin will hire someone else.
In Pittsburgh, Gilles Meloche stepped down as the goalie coach for the Penguins after he took some heat for the dismal performance of Marc-Andre Fleury in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Meloche will stay on as a scout for the team, and there's a chance assistant goalie coach Mike Bales will be promoted to take over Meloche's old role.
Finally, Tampa Bay may have lost the services of assistant goalie coach Leo Luongo, a former QMJHL goalie coach that has agreed to provide his services for Lugano (NLA) in Switzerland. Luongo is responsible for the development of goalies at all three levels in Lugano, which may no longer allow him to assist the Lightning.
Knowing that the NHL Draft is just a few weeks away on June 30, my July update will have tons of movement all charted out. I'll be adding all of the drafted goalies, and since the next update will come after the 5th, I'll be removing all of the UFA goalies. I've noted every RFA and UFA goalies with appropriate (R) and (U) Alteration Marks. Enjoy this free report and have fun watching the rest of the Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Chicago!