Henrik Lundqvist is going to face a really difficult decision this season. What hat to wear on the bench tonight? Nope. When he should finally deal with the gray in his beard? Nope.
No, Hank is going to face possibly the ultimate decision in sports: team or self. With Igor Shesterkin getting recalled from Hartford, Lundqvist will have to truly consider how the future of his career will play out (or not play out).
In an interview with Rangers beat writer Vince Mercogliano, Lundqvist noted that he wouldn’t be super comfortable taking on a mentor role to Shesterkin. Despite the young netminder noting that he idolized Hank growing up, the aging veteran goalie is more focused on his own game at this point in time.
It is very obvious from this response that Lundqvist is well aware of what is transpiring. As Forever Blueshirts editor Zak Chiger, noted, Lundqvist sees the writing on the wall. The goalie room is now very crowded for the Rangers and they may roll with three goalies for quite a bit of time, but that remains to be seen.
However, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the organization would obviously love to create a goaltender tandem of Shesterkin and Georgiev as the rebuild continues its sprint toward the finish line and into the new era. And based on the early returns, that duo could be a heck of a one-two punch.
Unfortunately, with Lundqvist still under contract for the rest of this season and next, there simply isn’t room. There is no doubt that Shesterkin will be with the club next season, barring any major slip in play.
The rumors have been swirling for months regarding if/when a Georgiev trade may occur. This is still the most likely option going forward, however, this is where Hank has to think thoroughly.
He has noted that he wants to retire a Ranger, so I do not see him requesting a trade, nor do I see the Rangers shopping the future Hall-of-Famer, who will have his number hanging from the rafters of Madison Square Garden as soon as he retires.
So does he do what is best for the team he loves so dearly, who he has given his heart and soul to for a decade and a half? Or does he focus on his personal career and his play? This is the question.
Prior to the season, I did not think there would be a real possibility that Lundqvist would retire. However, these sentiments have changed after recent events. He knows what is happening within the organization and he sees the uber-talented young netminders beside him.
If he were to hang up the skates after this season, thus ending a truly magnificent career, he would be helping the Rangers out tremendously. The team would be able to extend Georgiev – potentially as it’s 1B goalie – with Shesterkin as 1A. Again, what a combo this would be.
But if Lundqvist decides he wants to finish what he started and play out the remainder of his contract, the Blueshirts would have to trade Georgiev at the deadline. Keeping all three simply isn’t an option because they would run the risk of Shesterkin activating his European Assignment Clause to head back oversees.
If Georgiev is traded, Lundqvist would split time with Shesterkin for a season, with the workload dependent on who is playing well. Hank would likely then retire and the Rangers would have to either sign a free agent backup goalie, or see what they have in prospects Adam Huska, Tyler Wall, or Olof Lindbom. This option is a bit more dangerous, as we already know how good Georgiev has been for the Rangers and under Benoit Allaire.
What makes this more complicated is that Lundqvist would need to make his decision to retire or not retire soon, like before the trade deadline. If the Rangers trade Georgiev and then Lundqvist decides to retire, that would be a disaster. That is the worst-case scenario. I understand it is a ridiculously difficult decision, but again, it is easy to see that ideally the Rangers would love to keep Georgiev. If this scenario were to happen it would really sting the Rangers a bit. But the risk of this happening is not worth forgoing an opportunity to trade Georgiev.
So that’s where we are. A crowded goalie room and an even more crowded cloud of uncertainty. All we know right now is that Igor is here and the rebuild has taken its next step.
It is not the end of the world if the Rangers trade Georgiev, leaving them to find another good backup once Lundqvist retires. But Lundqvist clearly sees the writing on the wall and is uncomfortable with a mentor role, but loves this team too much to hurt it or retire elsewhere. Therefore, despite the gallons of tears I and many others would shed, I believe Henrik Lundqvist deciding to retire at the end of this season, and informing management of that decision before the deadline, is the best possible scenario for the future of this rebuild and New York Ranger goaltending.