Should the New York Rangers sign RFA Igor Shesterkin long term?

Igor Shesterkin is a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. There is no question that the New York Rangers will be signing him. It’s just a matter of for how many years? Does Chris Drury truly believe in him to lead the team to the Stanley Cup and sign him long term? Or is this about cap juggling and going for a bridge deal?

Igor Shesterkin is on the verge of being an elite NHL goalie

This past season, Igor Shesterkin made 35 appearances winning 16 of those games. The 25 year-old was tied for 7th in the NHL in SV% (.916), and 11th in GAA (2.62) for all goalies having played at least 25 games. When you use that same minimum games played among rookies, Shesterkin was the top backstop in SV% and ranked second in GAA to only Dallas Stars netminder Jake Oettinger (2.36).

Impressive. Especially when you consider that on March 5th he tore his groin and missed several weeks. As he was recovering from his injury, questions about his durability started to find its way into the NY papers. Larry Brooks brought up Shesterkin getting hurt in an RTP exhibition match which caused him to miss Games 1 and 2 against the Hurricanes last season. He returned for Game 3, but the Rangers were swept in the Qualifying Round.

Naturally, when he was hurt on a non contact play against the Devils red flags went up. Shesterkin responded by going on a different kind of tear upon his return. From March 24th to April 27th, Igor went 9-4-2 and had the Rangers knocking on the door of a playoff spot. The wheels fell off for the Blueshirts’ bus after that. He finished with 10-7-2 after recovering from his groin tear.

Shesterkin is up for a new deal

igor shesterkin
Apr 25, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers stops a shot in the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on April 25, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 fourth round draft pick is now up for a new deal. Before coming to North America, Shesterkin’s KHL stats were downright gaudy. In his final season with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, he played in 28 games amassing a 24-4-0 record to go along with a 1.11 GAA and a sparkling .953 save percentage.

Before being called up to the Rangers last season his Wolf Pack stats were equally amazing. Shesterkin in 2019-20 was leading the AHL with a 1.93 GAA and was second in SV% at .932 to earn AHL All Star honors. For his brief NHL career his record is 26-16-3 with a .921 SV % and 2.59 GAA.

Chris Drury has a decision to make about Igor’s next contract and it is an important one.

Should the Rangers sign him long term?

The organization views Shesterkin as the number one goalie and believe he can backstop them to a Cup Championship. That alone should be enough for the Rangers to go long term on a new deal.

That means buying free agent years however, and that’s where the price could go up. Two recent contracts that could serve as benchmarks for a new Shesterkin deal are Thatcher Demko in Vancouver and Jordan Binnington in St. Louis.

Demko who is 25 years of age signed a five year deal worth $5 million per season with the Canucks last year. The 27 year-old Binnington inked a six year deal for $6 million AAV after winning a Stanley Cup on a two year-deal worth $4.4 million per season.

If Shesterkin were to sign a bridge deal he could see something in the $3.5 to $4.5 range for two years. Now should Drury want to lock him up a little longer the cost would be closer to $5 million. That’s if the deal is for at least four years, should they want to add term it will start to climb to the tune of a half million for each year they add on.

The decision is not going to be an easy one, and it will likely be influenced by what trades and signings they think can be made before they get in front of an arbitrator.

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