“I’d say you’ve got to earn your spot,” head coach Alain Vigneault said, per the Bergen Record. “It is an open battle. We’ll see how they both do. I think Raanta might have a little bit of an upper edge because he’s got more experience.
“It’s good, internal competition. We’re going to pick whoever helps us win.”
Raanta, 26, was acquired from Chicago at the draft and put up sparkling numbers (.936 save percentage, 1.89 GAA) in limited work for the Blackhawks last season, but was eventually beaten out for the No. 2 job by Scott Darling.
Hellberg, 24, was acquired from Nashville on the opening day of free agency. He first goalie taken at the 2011 draft — one spot ahead of Anaheim’s John Gibson — but has a very limited body of work at the NHL level (a 12-minute relief appearance during ’13-14).
While the backup gig behind Henrik Lundqvist has traditionally been an easy gig — he was one of the NHL’s biggest workhorses for a while — that looks as though it may be changing. A vascular ailment limited the Swedish ‘tender to just 46 games last year and, even prior to that, it seemed the Blueshirts were lessening his workload.
It’s also worth noting that Lundqvist turns 34 this season.
As for the other goalie in all this — Mackenzie Skapski, who made his NHL debut for New York last year and performed well — he’s still recovering from hip surgery and won’t be ready for return until the first week of November. It’s likely that Skapski will be on his way to the American League, though, barring total meltdowns by both Raanta and Hellberg.