BROADWAY, NYC – The end is near for Good King Henrik, as the NY Rangers are pulling the plug on the unsustainable three-goalie rotation. As Axl Rose once said about threesomes, “usually someone gets pissed off.” Well, here were are. The team is switching gears and turning full time to The Czar, Igor Shesterkin.
With one more year on his contract and a no movement clause in place, and no one yet willing to pay the Rangers’ asking price for caught-in-the-middle Alexandar Georgiev, a graceful exit for The King might be difficult. As Hank prepares to join the Ewing/Mattingly Pantheon of New York iconic athletes never to win a title, let’s look at the team’s options for moving on from Lundqvist.
No Way to Treat a King
It must feel like a betrayal to Hank when he hears the Garden crowd erupt in “I-gor” chants a mere handful of games into Shesterkin’s career. Lundqvist has left it all on the ice for this team and earned every single “HEN-RIK” chant.
Some kid comes along and plays all of six games, and they’re already chanting his name? Ouch. This is like your ex bragging about her new lover just days after you broke up. I mean, I imagine that’s what it’s like. Not that it’s every happened to me.
But in the words of Machiavelli, “Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” Or as Janet Jackson put it, “What have you done for me late-ly.”
Shesterkin is 5-1 with a 2.34 GAA and a .933 save percentage. Compare that to 12-11, 3.12 and 9.08 for Georgiev, and 10-11, 3.13 and .907 for Hank. It’s a small sample size for the rook, but Igor has dominated everywhere he’s been. The time has come.
1. Trade Georgiev – The Rangers think highly of the young Bulgarian-Russian netminder and are holding out for a good return. Several suitors have emerged, but none have been willing to pay the piper as of yet. The Rangers say they won’t give him away and will to hold onto him until the offseason if they have to. They can try again to trade him then, when he will be a restricted free agent. I guess that’s possible, but it feels like posturing.
One of the heads must be lopped off three-headed monster. Henrik hasn’t given any indication that he will waive his no movement clause and accept a trade to a contender. Nor has he indicated he’s likely to retire at season’s end. So if Igor is the guy, and they’re not willing to buy out Henrik and end the career of the icon on a sad note, what else can they do but trade Georgiev?
The Rangers’ asking price is likely to go down, and I expect Alexandar to be traded before the deadline. Georgiev has publicly lamented the difficulty of the current situation and trading him is the path of least resistance. Lundqvist can mentor Shesterkin for the rest of this season and next, pick up a few more wins in a backup role, and step aside gracefully. An Eli Manning-ish exit. Not perfect, but not terrible.
2. Buy out Lundqvist – From a strictly business standpoint, this isn’t a bad option. It would save them $3 million under the cap next year and only cost them $1.5 million in dead money the following year. That’s not all that bad when you have two capable netminders on the roster on the cheap.
The dead money would hit in a year when Stahl, Smith, and the Shatty dead money come off the books. But buying him out would be rough when you consider all he’s done for the franchise. The Rangers don’t want Hank to go out like that. I’d say the probability is low, unless Lundqvist asks for it.
3. Trade Lundqvist – This is also unlikely, but I’d say it’s trending up a little. I believe Hank cares about where he ends up on the all-time goalie wins list. Going into the season, Hank probably envisioned himself playing enough in his final two seasons to end up in third place, up above Roberto Luongo’s 489. But now he’s stagnating at 459 and was passed by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Hank has never shown even the slightest inkling to want to play anywhere else, but the frustration has to be building. He hasn’t played poorly and must crave one more shot at The Cup. If it looks like the Rangers aren’t going to trade Georgiev before the deadline, Hank will have to think about it if the Rangers find a taker. The Rangers would likely have to eat some of his salary but there are plenty of goalie needy contenders out there. Don’t rule it out.
I wonder if they have considered packaging him up with the highly sought-after Chris Kreider to a team like Colorado. How about Kreider and Lundqvist (Rangers eat half his remaining salary) for a 2020 first round pick, Martin Kaut (their 2018 first rounder), and a 2021 3rd round pick. Is that unreasonable?
Timing is Everything
If Lundqvist’s contract was expiring at the end of this year, things would line up much better. They could get through this season, then Shesterkin and Georgiev would open next season as the guys. Adam Huska, Shesterkin’s backup in Hartford, might be ready to resume that role on Broadway by next year’s deadline, so the Rangers could move Georgiev then. But as it stands, all signs point to the Rangers wanting Hank to finish out his contract with the respect he deserves.
Unless he decides he wants out, expect Hank to be the backup until his contract runs out and Georgiev to be traded.
That’s it for me. Let me know how you think it’s going to play out in the comments. And come back tomorrow for the Angry WizARD. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.