Rangers may need to carry three goalies soon
Every Rangers fan remembers watching a game and being in absolute awe of Henrik Lundqvist. The near-impossible saves that made us all look at each other with our jaws left wide open, only able to articulate a phrase that has become so familiar to us: “Did he really just save that?” There is no doubt that Hank is the King of New York, the backbone of the Rangers for over a decade, and the most reliable skater wearing a Rangers uniform every time he takes the ice.
But in today’s reality, the organization is rebuilding, and has shown commitment to this new phase of Rangers hockey by trading long-time fan favorites for young prospects and draft picks over the last two years. The pressure and expectations of rebuilding one of the league’s most famous and long-standing hockey franchises and the aging factor of the 37-year-old netminder who is nearing the end of his 7-year, 8.5 million dollar contract, has divided a fanbase on what they believe is the best decision for the Rangers organization to make in order to address their current goalie situation, that while complicated, is a very good problem to have.
What to do
Before readers work themselves into a frenzy, this is not an anti-Lundqvist narrative, as his contributions to the Rangers and personal accolades have cemented his name in history on many occasions. However, Hank presents a very unique situation for Gorton and company as his contract includes a no-move clause and while still a solid goalie, has shown glimpses of decline. It may appear as though Hank’s contract puts him in the driver’s seat, but the Rangers front office still have the final say, as there are creative moves that can still be made. That leaves the organization with three options: Buy-out a living Rangers legend, trade Alexander Georgiev, the 23-year-old netminder with the hot glove, or call up Igor Shesterkin and ride with three goalies.
When you set all of the noise aside, the answer is clear. Call up Igor, keep Georgie, and operate with three goalies. Though not unheard of, it is unconventional for an NHL team to carry three goalies and yes, it would be difficult to manage, but if the Rangers organization is serious about making the right decision for the team moving forward, this is it.
The Czar of NY
Of course, this wouldn’t be a legitimate goalie conversation without mentioning the name Igor Shesterkin. The Russian force who currently holds a 9-3 record, a GAA of 1.98, and a SV% of 0.930. I have no doubt he is the heir to King Henrik’s throne, but he cannot be expected to come up from the AHL and start 60 games a season, and regardless of how stellar he currently performs, the NHL is its own animal that he has yet to face. As much as Hank loves being a Ranger, he won’t be sticking around to play mentor and backup goalie to Shesterkin. A future where Shesterkin starts 50 games and Georgiev takes the other 32 is one the Rangers can reap benefits from for years to come. Some teams with notable goalie duos that are proving successful this season are the first-place Boston Bruins, with Tuukka Rask (19 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (12 GP), and third-place Philadelphia Flyers, with Carter Hart (19 GP) and Brian Elliott (15 GP).
There is no doubt the Rangers organization breeds phenomenal goal-tending and longtime Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, is mainly to thank for that. This won’t be the last time the goaltending topic is hot in New York, as it doesn’t look like the Rangers goalie depth is slowing down anytime soon. The most notable goalies currently in the Rangers farmhouse are 22-year-old Adam Huska, 21-year-old Tyler Wall, and 19-year-old Olof Lindbom. Each of these young netminders has the potential to become the backup goalie for Igor Shesterkin in the future, but they are young, especially as goaltenders, who are historically more aged when they enter the league than any other position. Not to mention, their closeness in age means they will all eventually be fighting for the same spot behind Igor anyway, and the likelihood of a trade would be inevitable.
Georgiev is Different
I’ve been challenged by many fans to recall the fates of Antti Raanta and Cam Talbot in comparison to Georgiev, but this situation couldn’t be more different. Simply put, Raanta and Talbot were each the singular back-up goalie on a Stanley Cup contending team, behind the franchise’s star goalie, who at the time, was only three years into his new contract. Currently, Georgiev has only started four less games than Lundqvist, posting 8 wins in 14 starts, two of which were shutouts, and a Hank-like .926 Sv%. Although the notion going into this season was that Georgie would play backup to Hank, its apparent that he has solidified his role as a starter. Some fans are so worried about missing out on a return for Georgiev if he’s not traded this season, but it’s important to remember that historically, goalies simply don’t command a high return on the trade market and in reality, the Rangers are no longer in dire need of draft picks the way they once were. Taking a chance on a 23-year-old making 792,500 a year, who has flashed “Did he really just save that?” moments of his own is worth seeing through. Feelings aside, Georgiev is simply outperforming Lundqvist.
To be fair, none of these three aforementioned goalies should be too concerned with sharing the responsibility in net for a season. Henrik can ride out his tenure as a Blueshirt with his pride in tact if he chooses to, and Georgie can continue to thrive under pressure, as he continues to play with something to prove. Most importantly for the future of the Rangers, Shesterkin’s first full season as an NHL goalie will bring its own set of learning experiences that won’t have to be coupled with the pressure of starting 60 plus games.
Regardless of how you feel about the Rangers current goalie situation, it seems we will have to continue to wait and see what direction the organization moves toward as Jeff Gorton made his mindset quite clear stating in an interview, “It’s not something I’m thinking about right now, no. Georgie’s played well enough to be here. He’s helping us win games, so the clock, in my mind, is not really ticking.’’
One thing this restless fanbase can agree on is that Henrik Lundqvist is an icon and Igor Shesterkin is the future. But Alexander Georgiev has made a strong case for claiming his spot alongside Shesterkin. Remember, this is a good problem to have, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated one. A young tandem comprised of two 20 something stud goalies in a time when NHL teams seem to be moving in that direction, sets the Rangers up nicely for continued goalie success for many years to come.