AP Photo credit New York Rangers via Getty Images
As they prepare for battle tonight against the sizzling Blue Jackets on Championship Sunday, the Rangers face a dilemma in net. The three headed goalie monster won’t last forever. Eventually, management will be forced to make an uncomfortable decision.
The disturbing part is that they’ll likely choose poorly like in that funny scene near the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. With Henrik Lundqvist barely playing these days due to younger netminders Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shestyorkin, you would think his days would be numbered. But with the power of a no-movement clause, the soon to be 38-year old franchise leader in victories, shutouts and games played doesn’t have to leave. He can stay for another year with the now bad $8.5 million cap hit hindering the team’s ability to keep key players.
You can either see the collective writing on the wall, or be blinded by what one of the all-time Rangers has accomplished. Nobody is denying how special Lundqvist once was. His shutout of the Canadiens in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 to clinch the franchise’s first Stanley Cup appearance in 20 years was memorable. It remains my favorite game ever attended followed up by the Game Five miracle in 2015 to stun the Capitals on the precipice of getting eliminated. There are others such as the Martin St. Louis goal on Mother’s Day to help the Rangers come back from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in their history while beating the Penguins.
When they host Columbus later right around the time the 49ers take on the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, it’ll be Shestyorkin in net for his third career start. He won his first two by allowing three goals in each while making plenty of key saves. Now, he’s back after over a week off. The only loss in the previous five games was to Lundqvist, who allowed five in a 5-2 defeat at St. Louis. Alexandar Georgiev won the last two games against the Islanders by continuing to play well. He’s 4-1-0 against them with a 1.40 GAA and .955 save percentage.
Of course, Alexandar The Great could be the odd man out despite owning the most wins this season. He’ll soon turn 24 next month about two weeks leading up to the trade deadline. A good goalie who no one knew about due to being signed by the organization, he’s affordable like Shestyorkin. Of course, Igor has the pedigree and is expected to be the heir apparent to Lundqvist. He could supplant him as the next star netminder on Broadway.
But what about Georgiev? Is he really an afterthought due to the uncomfortable Lundqvist situation that now is becoming impossible to ignore. Even if some Ranger fans choose to live in an alternate universe. The trade proposals I’ve seen on Twitter are outlandish. They’re supposed to just move Georgiev for any forward when he is increasing his value. Unless it’s a player who can definitely play top nine and improve the roster, I have to be very careful. Yes. I too have pondered if Kasperi Kapanen would be enough in a swap with the interested Leafs due to their uncomfortable backup situation. Why not trade with Detroit instead? They have no number one goalie with apologies to the well respected Jimmy Howard.
With Tyler Wall named as a Hobey Baker candidate for top collegiate player, he will have a future. The Rangers boast goalie depth which bodes well. But there’s nothing wrong with having a rotation of two 24-year olds in Georgiev and Shestyorkin for ’20-21. The issue is Lundqvist. Unless he does a 180 and accepts a trade to say Colorado or Calgary, he will stay until the end of his contract.
That poses a problem for GM Jeff Gorton and Team President John Davidson. They can’t keep everyone. As well as Chris Kreider is performing entering tonight’s match with 17 points over his last 17 games, he will cost a pretty penny this summer. I’ve seen some unrealistic proposals. Kreider isn’t taking less than $6.5 million. He’s worth at least $7 million over six years. If he wants full security, he can ask for a seventh year. The value he brings to the roster isn’t just on the score sheet. But off the ice on the bench and in the room where he provides leadership. He’s a good example for younger teammates to follow.
Unless Lundqvist comes off the books with even a potential buyout an option, they can’t keep Kreider, Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo and Jesper Fast. Brendan Lemieux is also restricted, but will be cheaper. It creates a dilemma for management, who can’t just subtract players without replacing them. They don’t want to weaken a roster that prominently features Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Shestyorkin, Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. Who will they choose?
It can’t be a giveaway if they decide to retain Kreider and move on from leading scoring defenseman DeAngelo and Strome. Draft picks won’t work because they won’t improve the current roster. They need good young NHL players in return. No bull.
Try telling other fan bloggers that. It’ll fall on deaf ears. These people are blind. They don’t get the big picture. That is to still improve without making the rebuilding process even longer. If the organization listens to these people, it could be years before they see the playoffs. If you thought the Dark Ages of ’97-98 to ’03-04 was bad, this could be worse.
There can’t be any missteps. The Rangers still have two games to play both at home before the All-Star break. One tonight versus John Tortorella’s hot Blue Jackets and a third meeting over nine days against the suddenly sliding Islanders this Tuesday at MSG.
They can make things more interesting with two more wins on home ice. No matter what, it’ll be interesting what they’ll do in a month with big decisions on key players.