Hurricanes’ Kochetkov Extension Adds Piece to Goaltending Puzzle

The Carolina Hurricanes announced Wednesday that they have extended goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov with a four-year contract worth $8 million, for an average annual value (AAV) of $2 million.

Kochetkov, who started the year with the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League (AHL), has been filling in for Frederik Andersen while the team’s starting goaltender is out with an undisclosed injury. In his four games for the Hurricanes this season, the 23-year-old netminder has a save percentage (SV%) of .914, and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.00. His numbers are very similar with the Wolves in the AHL, and management clearly believes he will be a valuable asset for years to come.

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The Hurricanes have had some goaltending issues this season, and Kochetkov seems to be fixing some of these issues. The consistency with his game is something the Hurricanes have been searching for. With a career record of 5-0-2, SV% of .909 and a GAA of 2.16, there is certainly some bright spots, even after transitioning from the bigger surface in Russia.

Big Off-Season Goaltending Decisions

Antti Raanta and Andersen are a bit of a risky duo, and both are unrestricted free agents after this season. The Hurricanes are clearly going to look at bringing at least one back. There is a solid case to be made for each goaltender, and it will be one of the biggest decisions the team has, as they will still be looking towards contending for the Stanley Cup next year.

Andersen, who finished fourth in Vezina Trophy votes last year, seems like the easy pick, but the more you look, the more you question. Andersen’s start to the year was shaky. Before going down with the undisclosed injury, potentially connected to his MCL injury at the end of last year, he had a record of 5-3-0 but had a .891 SV% and 2.72 GAA. These numbers need to be better if the team is depending on him to take them deep in the playoffs.

Frederik Andersen Carolina Hurricanes
Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Raanta has been the backup goaltender but has been more consistent than Andersen. With seven games played, Raanta has a .902 SV% and 2.53 GAA. These are okay numbers, but the Hurricanes are hoping for a bit better than that. He has had some fantastic games, where he is the only positive takeaway from the game, but he still isn’t quite as consistent as the team needs.

Both of these goalies have shown that they can be phenomenal. They are both great goaltenders and on good contracts. Any team would be lucky to have this combo, but it just isn’t working for the Hurricanes right now. Despite the team being second in the Metropolitan division, they should be asking for more from the netminders.

So Who Is Kochetkov Replacing?

When a young goaltender signs a longer-term contract, the expectation is that they have or will steal a job from one of the goalies. Andersen would be a tough loss, especially if he can rebound after his recovery and look like the goaltender he was last year. If Raanta is the one to go, they lose their more consistent goaltender, and they are putting Kochetkov into a tough position, as he will have a bigger responsibility as a more equal tandem.

Pyotr Kochetkov Carolina Hurricanes
Pyotr Kochetkov, Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unless the Hurricanes decide that they can run with three goaltenders, assuming Kochetkov’s contract is all one-way, they have to drop someone. In my personal opinion, if Kochetkov comes in as a full-time NHL goalie, I think the best partner for him would be Andersen. Andersen has the experience and talent, and at his best, is among the NHL’s top goaltenders. If the Hurricanes can bring Anderson back at a decent price, it should be a no-brainer to get him back.

Though Kochetkov only has seven NHL games, he has shown that he can perform under pressure. Andersen, who has a history of missing time with injuries, may be out for a significant period, leaving Kochetkov to claim the active starting role.

Fitting The Pieces Together

Regardless of who his partner is, it is hard to go wrong when deciding what to do next season. Having Kochetkov locked up for four more years is a great start, and he could develop into a high-end starting goalie. It will be a very interesting storyline to follow, and for all we know, they may not re-sign either current goalie, and make a signing or trade for another goalie.

What we do know, is that Kochetkov will be a part of the future, and it looks like that future will be bright. Andersen still doesn’t have a clear timetable on a return, but in the meantime, I expect Kochetkov will already start making that deal look better and better each game he plays.

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