When the Chicago Blackhawks signed Michael Leighton to a 1-year contract on Monday, speculation began immediately about where the veteran goaltender would be playing in 2014-15.
Most reporters and fans believe that the Hawks already have a set goaltending depth chart with Corey Crawford starting, and Antti Raanta playing whenever Crawford needs a rest. Raanta is a good back-up goaltender, as he showed when Crawford fell to injury around mid-season in 2013-14. Raanta held down the fort well until he returned.
The Hawks have another option that could work out better. Leighton could stay up in the NHL to back-up Crawford, and Raanta could be sent down to enjoy a starting position with the Hawks AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. A starting spot for Raanta would be incredible for his development, rather than only getting the nod once in a while.
The last time the Blackhawks signed a back-up goaltender who was over 30, who also just so happened to play for the Hawks in the past (i.e. Nikolai Khabibulin), it turned into near disaster, until Raanta saved the day.
Leighton has spent the last few seasons in Russia playing for the KHL, but if he can show that he can back up Corey Crawford successfully throughout the season, it will give Raanta a much needed developmental stage in the AHL.