New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin catapulted his team to a deep playoff run while picking up some hardware for his regular-season performance. The NHL’s free agent signing period opened on July 13, and the Rangers were busy. They lost some key elements to their team but added a player who can help long-term and more.
Shesterkin Wins Vezina, Loses Hart
Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy and finished third in the Hart Trophy race, as he beat out Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames and Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators, who finished second and third, respectively. The Russian-born goaltender was the unanimous winner with 36 first-place votes.
Shesterkin finished third in the Hart Trophy race behind Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton OIlers’ Connor McDavid. Matthews won the award while receiving 1,630 votes, around 500 more than McDavid and about 900 more than Shesterkin.
Finishing fourth and fifth in Hart Trophy voting was Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau, who recently signed as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers. It’s rare that goalies are even considered in the Hart conversation, but Shesterkin had a stellar season and was the main reason why the Blueshirts got as far as they did in the playoffs.
Copp, Vatrano, Strome: Gone
It was no secret that Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome were question marks to return to the Rangers for the 2022-23 season. Not only because they were all unrestricted free agents (UFAs) at the end of the season, but also due to the team’s available salary cap space, or lack thereof moving forward. They had some room to work with but to keep all three of them along with the probable re-signing of Kaapo Kakko, it was going to be pretty much impossible. However, many thought at least one or possibly two of them could return, as they all played key roles in helping the Rangers make it to the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Copp and Vatrano were deadline acquisitions that helped Drury earn a nomination for the Jim Gregory Award (GM of the Year) in his first season. Strome was acquired by the Rangers early in the 2018-19 season from the Oilers and since then played mostly on a line with Artemi Panarin. The two showed great chemistry together while Strome helped Panarin record a couple of high-scoring seasons.
Copp signed with the Detroit Red Wings for five years at $5.625 million average annual value (AAV), while Vatrano and Strome signed with the Anaheim Ducks for three years at $3.65 million AAV and five years at $5 million AAV, respectively. As of July 14, 2022, the Rangers have a projected cap space of just over $4.8 million. Also, Kakko being a restricted free agent (RFA), was apparently extended a qualifying offer of a two-year bridge deal with an AAV of $2 million to $2.5 million (from ‘Six priorities for NY Rangers as they enter a busy week’ – lohud. – 7/11/22).
Trocheck to Broadway
Vincent Trocheck of the Carolina Hurricanes is coming to New York, as he signed a seven-year deal worth $5.625 million AAV on Wednesday. Depending on training camp and chemistry, he will likely replace Strome as the Rangers’ second-line center, as he had 51 points in 81 games last season.
Drury had this to say about the 5-foot-10, 183-pound 29-year-old, “We just looked at a lot of different players, a lot of different options [at center]. It’s an important part of any hockey team and it’s a hole we wanted to address. Just excited to have Vincent on board. He’s a real good player, does a lot of different things. We’re excited to have him.”
Trocheck and head coach Gerard Gallant also have prior history together as he was behind the bench when Trocheck was with the Florida Panthers. Trocheck had this to say about it, “It had a lot to do with it… Obviously, spent some time with [Gallant] in Florida and got to know him really well and had a really good relationship with him down there. He’s one of my favorite coaches that I’ve ever had. Having him in New York was another huge draw for me to come here.” The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native has 378 points in 555 career games.
Georgiev Traded to the Avalanche
Shortly before the 2022 NHL Entry Draft began, backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev was traded to recent Stanley Cup winner Colorado Avalanche, as the Rangers acquired third- and fifth-round picks in 2022 and a third-round pick in 2023 (From ‘Alexandar Georgiev trade: Who won the Rangers and Avalanche deal?’, USA Today Sports, 7/7/22). Georgiev, who was about to become a restricted free agent and was clearly relegated to full-time backup duties over the last two seasons, probably wasn’t long for a Rangers uniform. So, Drury figured to at least get something for him and bring in a backup with a little less of a cap hit, as Georgiev would have been owed a $2.65 million qualifying offer had he entered the RFA market.