The New York Rangers find themselves in quite a situation these days in regards to their goaltending scenario and Henrik Lundqvist is caught in the middle of it. It’s been well documented that King Henrik is taking more of a backseat this year to let the Rangers develop their up and coming netminders Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin. Georgiev and Shesterkin are both currently on the Rangers roster along with Henrik of course after Shesterkin was called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack, their minor league affiliate two weeks ago.
The King and the Kids
The 23-year-old Georgiev is the 31st ranked goalie in the league at 12-9-1 and a 3.06 goals-against average (GAA), these numbers are less than extraordinary, to say the least. However, the Rangers do see a great deal of potential in Georgiev. Lundqvist, on the other hand, is 9-10-3 with a 3.18 GAA and ranked 43rd. For Henrik, this is way below par and whether it’s the lack of number one goalie minutes, or father time catching up with him remains to be seen.
Henrik’s salary this year is at $7 million with an $8.5 million cap hit according to Capology, so that would make it hard to move him when you consider his declining production coupled with the salary ding. Henrik’s career GAA is 2.43 and save percentage is .918, while he’s 458-308-96 in 882 games played and has 63 shutouts. Shesterkin has started three games and is 2-1 with a 2.68 GAA. Both goals in his 2-1 loss came on the power play. So far he’s played well and given the team a bit of a boost in each of his games just as Georgiev has in his last couple of starts.
The Rangers need to figure out if they are going to be able to make a playoff run or not. Heading into tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden against the Islanders in which Georgiev is slated to start, they are sitting nine points out of the eighth and final seed in the East, with two games in hand on the Carolina Hurricanes. Rangers’ management will need to assess their roster and where the team is headed this season and make a decision sooner rather than later.
There are many things to consider in this regard and the consensus is they are looking to move Georgiev and running with Lundqvist and Shesterkin. Sending Georgiev down isn’t an option since he recently played his 60th career game, so he’s no longer waiver exempt. That means he has to clear waivers to be sent to Hartford and pretty much everyone knows he won’t. They could move Henrik if he waives his no-trade clause. However, there haven’t been any rumblings of that being imminent and the Rangers don’t seem to have much interest in moving Shesterkin at this point. Perhaps they’ll use a three goalie system for the rest of the year and see what comes to the table in the off-season.
The Rangers can still get something for Georgiev in trade but speculation is that they won’t get much in value (draft picks) for him at the moment. The Toronto Maple Leafs have apparently expressed some interest in Georgiev to back up or complement their number one goalie Frederik Andersen. Andersen has been solid but he’s not exactly having a stellar season. At the moment, he’s got a 22-9-6 record and a 2.89 GAA. He’s ranked third in wins but 34th in goals against, so the Leafs may want to bring someone in just in case, especially since their backup Michael Hutchinson has barely played and when he has he’s not turning heads.
After all of that, you have to consider the Shesterkin situation. He was one of the top players for the Wolf Pack in his first season in North America before being called up to the show. Shesterkin is the career GAA leader (1.68) in Russia’s premier pro league the KHL. However, Russian goalies typically need a lot of time to adjust to the game over here. The angles are different as well as the style of play. Although, the Rangers are extremely high on his NHL potential there isn’t much to go on yet.
Will Gorton Send the Bat-signal?
Now you can see the type of dilemma the Rangers are faced with. Lundqvist is the third highest-paid Ranger and the fifth highest-paid goalie with an $8.5 million cap hit this season as well as next. So any team trading for him will have to take this into consideration plus his diminishing skills. Can the Rangers get worthy value for either Lundqvist or Georgiev, since they don’t seem too interested in trading Shesterkin anytime soon? Another thing to consider is that Georgiev and Shesterkin’s combined cap hit is just over $1.7 million.
Rangers’ general manager Jeff Gorton said back in December from El Segundo, Ca. before a game against the Los Angeles Kings, “Everything becomes clearer when you get closer to the deadlines, no matter what the deadline is.” Gorton went on to say, “We’re encouraged with how we’re playing. We know that we’ll have difficult decisions to make going forward. Let’s see what happens in the next couple months.” (from ‘Jeff Gorton on Rangers’ future: Trade deadline, goaltenders, playoff push,’ New York Post, 12/09/2019)
At this point, it seems the Rangers’ front office is in a holding pattern given the waiver clause with Georgiev, Shesterkin’s promise, their current record and Henrik’s salary/no-trade clause. Tonight’s game probably still won’t really shed any light on all of it since you don’t know if the Rangers have decided to showcase Georgiev with a trade in the wings to Maple Leafs or elsewhere.
As of now, the smart money is on allowing Shesterkin to continually develop and adjust to the North American game while goaltending duties are practically split between him, Lundqvist and Georgiev, at least until the deadline. However, Henrik hasn’t played since Jan. 11, and this can pose a problem for his game moving forward since he’s used to carrying such a heavy load. Or, will it give him some much-needed rest on a body that’s logged a lot of miles?
Today’s Trade Deadline Answer
The Rangers’ organization and fan base should keep in mind that in the NHL playoffs anything can happen. Just ask the 2002-03 Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks and 2017-18 Nashville Predators. The Ducks took the New Jersey Devils all the way to game seven before losing and the Predators gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a run for their money but came up short in the Final. And don’t forget the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings who entered the playoffs as the 8th seed in the West and won the Stanley Cup.