Exploring UFA market for next Rangers backup goalie

casey desmith
Jan 30, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Kevin Rooney #17 of the New York Rangers scores a second period goal against Casey DeSmith #1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on an assist from K'Andre Miller #79 (L) at Madison Square Garden on January 30, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
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New York Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev has expressed a desire for more playing time and a chance at a starter’s role for a while. As a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights, the 26 year-old is due a qualifying offer of $2.65 million.

If the Georgiev’s rights can’t be traded at the draft on July 7, then the expectation is to let him become an unrestricted free agent on July 11 when qualifying offers are due. Several teams last season were interested in his services including the Edmonton Oilers and the Vegas Golden Knights. The believed return would be no higher than a third round pick.

With the Rangers having limited cap space, estimated to be around $11.93M per CapFriendly, a new and cheaper backup goalie is on the offseason agenda. President and GM Chris Drury is going to look for Georgiev’s replacement in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, give or take a few $100K. That’s a pretty small budget but very doable.

Igor Shesterkin is expected to get the lion’s share of starts for next season. I’d would expect it to be in the 55 to 60 games range. That would be a start for the backup around every 7 days, so an over 30 veteran is the logical choice.

Let’s dive into some potential UFA goalies expected to be available July 13.

New York Rangers backup goalie options

When it comes to veteran goalies that could backup Shesterkin the UFA list of affordable backups is fairly short at the moment. If the Rangers hardline is to be close to $1.5M it’s even more limited. Should Drury be open to going as high as $2M that could add another name or two.

Thomas Greiss36$3.6M~$1.5M
Jaroslav Halak37$1.5M~$1.5M
Craig Anderson41$750K~$1.5M
Casey DeSmith30$1.25M~$1.75M
Mikko Koskinen (signed in Switzerland)33$4.5M~$2M
Rangers UFA backup targets

Thomas Greiss: 36 years-old (2021-22: 10-15-1, 3.66 GAA, .891 SV%)

The Rangers may go with a ‘if you can’t beat ’em’ approach with Thomas Greiss. In his career, he’s 6-1-1 with a .926 SV% and a 2.64 GAA against the Blueshirts. Playing for the Red Wings didn’t do much for his stats last season, but he looked good in every game the Rangers faced him.

That shouldn’t be the main reason why they pick a backup, but he’s an experienced goalie with a high battle level. He could help the team in spot starts, but if he’s counted on to be the everyday starter for a stretch it may be a disastrous decision.

Jaroslav Halak: 36 years-old (2021-22: 4-7-2, 2.94 GAA, .903 SV%)

rangers backup goalie
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Halak knows what life is like playing in the Eastern Conference and has gone to war with the Rangers over the years as a member of the Islanders and Bruins. Matter of fact, Halak is 24-9-1 for his career against the Rangers. By far the most wins against any team he’s faced (two teams tied at 15).

Backing up an elite starter is nothing new to him. The Canucks Thatcher Demko is a workhorse leaving Halak with only making 17 appearances. He would certainly play more in New York, but as with Greiss, any extended time as a starter would not be optimal.

Craig Anderson: 41 years-old (2021-22: 17-12-2, 3.12 GAA, .897 SV%)

If you really want a battle-tested backup than Craig Anderson is a great choice. The ageless wonder doesn’t appear ready to retire and he was great in 31 appearances for the improved Sabres.

Buffalo is reportedly interested in bringing him back, but whomever signs him will be paying double the $750K show me deal he signed last season. Anderson is one of the few aging veteran netminders I’d be comfortable with getting a few consecutive starts.

Casey DeSmith: 30 years-old (2021-22: 11-6-5, 2.79 GAA, .914 SV%)

Another goalie the Rangers are familiar with is Penguins backup Casey DeSmith. He’s coming off a deal making $1.250 million which may put him in Drury’s sweet spot. There’s also a concern about his health after being injured in the playoffs against the Rangers and needing core muscle surgery.

Regardless, DeSmith has excellent numbers and experience as a backup goalie. There’s a mentality needed to play that role in the NHL and he has it. Plus, he would be a better option if the Rangers needed him to spell Shesterkin for a stretch.

Mikko Koskinen: 33 years-old (2021-22: 27-12-4, 3.10 GAA, .903 SV%)

What does the future hold for 6-7 goalie Mikko Koskinen? His struggles in Edmonton are well documented, but does someone see him as a possible starter? If not and the market is limited for his services the Rangers could bring in Igor Shesterkin’s goalie partner with SKA in the KHL.

Of course, there’s no way he’s likely to take less than $2M on his next deal. That would make him a more expensive option. However, if the Rangers were to have a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ scenario with Shesterkin, that would be extra money well spent.

Update: Mikko Koskinen signed with HC Lugano in Switzerland.

Other potential targets:

  • David Rittich, 29, previous AAV $1.25M
  • Martin Jones, 34, previous AAV $2M
  • Braden Holtby, 32, previous AAV $2M

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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