While chasing down Rangers’ wins record, Igor Shesterkin is already ahead of curve
Six years before franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist would retire with a franchise-record 489 wins, the team drafted Igor Shesterkin in 2014. As the team prepared for The King’s eventual retirement, Shesterkin had plenty of time to develop in Russia before making his highly anticipated debut in 2020.
Now the sole heir to the crease of one of the most iconic Original Six teams, Shesterkin rewarded the New York faithful with a Vezina Trophy win in his second full season in 2021-22. Historically, he beat Lundqvist, who took seven seasons to win the award, and the victory gave him more hardware than Mike Richter, who never took home an NHL award during his career.
Although there are several ways to compare these goalies who define different periods in Rangers’ history, Richter will always have an edge over anyone since 1940. As the only goalie to deliver a Stanley Cup to Broadway, his legacy at Madison Square Garden remains untouched.
Igor Shesterkin ahead of pace to become quickest to 300 wins
Before Oct. 28, 2002, the Rangers had never had a goalie win 300 games until Richter achieved the feat against the Arizona Coyotes. He took over the franchise win record (267) in 2001, which stood for 25 years when Ed Giacomin left the team to finish his career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1976.
Richter’s reign at the top was even shorter, just 11 years, when Lundqvist broke it with victory No. 302 in an 8-4 win over the Ottawa Senators on Mar. 18, 2014. Eventually, the Swedish netminder would finish his 15-year career with 489 victories, the franchise record.
Lundqvist didn’t reach his 100th win until his 187th career game during his third full season, winning 53% of those contests. Meanwhile, Richter, who played in a different era, earned his 100th win in his fifth season and 198th career game. Furthermore, he had won 51% of his contests at the time of the milestone.
However, Shesterkin’s next game will be just his 154th, and his next win will be his 100th, accomplishing the milestone in a shorter time than Richter and Lundqvist. Shesterkin’s win percentage is almost ten points higher than both retired netminders at 63%.
Age, injuries are the only roadblocks for Shesterkin
Most fans hate the topic when discussing the future of players and franchises because there’s no way to predict what may come. There’s little doubt that Igor Shesterkin will be the starter for the Rangers for the next two seasons until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2025-26.
Given the amount of time and effort that New York has invested in Shesterkin, it would be tough to allow him to walk away, no matter his salary demands. By the time Shesterkin is eligible to land a new contract, he will be 29. After 2025-26, he could be roughly 30 victories from 200 wins, making him the sixth goalie to reach the milestone with the Rangers.
The New York Islanders, recently re-signed their young Russian goalie Ilya Sorokin to a massive eight-year deal, ensuring his best days are on Long Island. Ultimately, this means the Rangers would be wise to take a page from their rivals’ playbook and lock up their star goalie for the long haul, giving him a chance to chase several of Lundqvist’s records.
Although he is ahead of the pace set by Lundqvist and Richter after 100 games, the similarities may end here. After each of their age-29 seasons, Richter only had 149 wins in 291 games (51%), while Lundqvist already had 252 victories in 468 games (53%). Even though Lundqvist never won 40 games in a season, that may be a saving grace for Shesterkin in his chase to collect 300 and 400 wins.
Igor Shesterkin has yet to play 60 games in a season, while Lundqvist played in at least that many in nine of his 15 seasons on Broadway. Meanwhile, Richter only suited up for more than 60 on five occasions, ultimately limiting his chances of reaching 400 wins.
Shesterkin’s success will depend on the players around him and the coaches behind the bench. As one of the game’s top five goalies in the league, his future is limitless, and he’ll get every opportunity to win games. The Rangers are fortunate to have passed the baton from a Hall of Famer to a young Vezina winner who may eventually bring the Stanley Cup back to the Garden.
If Shesterkin remains on his current pace and catches a few breaks along the way, there’s a good chance he’ll take down a handful of Lundqvist’s records, including most franchise wins.