When the Rangers dealt Antti Raanta to Arizona in the Derek Stepan deal, a quick survey of the market revealed plenty of useful options to serve as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup. There was a decent mix of higher upside projects and relatively safe veteran choices. When it came out that Benoit Allaire had zeroed in on Ondrej Pavelec for the role, many were surprised, myself included.
The 29 year-old Czech native (30 when the season starts) was a 2nd round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2005. He had shown tremendous promise in the notoriously offensive environment of the QMJHL before getting his first cup of coffee the year after he was drafted.
Prior to signing with the Rangers, Pavelec has only played for the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, so playing both in a new city and as a backup will be adjustments for him. Since he has been playing in the Western Conference and has been limited to 41 games over the past two seasons, instead of trying to cobble together an outdated scouting report, I thought I would run down a simple pro’s and con’s list of the Pavelec signing. Let’s see what Henrik Lundqvist’s new backup is bringing to the table…
Pro: He is tremendously talented
Pavelec came to North America as one of the consensus top European goaltenders in his draft year. He has great instincts, good positioning and has capable mobility skills. He reads the play through traffic well and can shut offenses down when he is on his game. There is a reason Allaire felt that he would be a good project to take on.
Con: His technical foundation is a bit of a mess
While his underlying skill set is of high quality, Pavelec has some trouble with technical consistency. His depth gets out of whack and tends to fall back on more athletic style saves on rebounds and scrambles, rather than adhering to his technical discipline. This tends to open his five hole and leads to some deflating goals against.
Pro: With a few tweaks, he could be dominant in a 25-30 game sample
Pavelec already has a tendency to play deeper in his net, which fits perfectly with Allaire’s preferred style. If the vaunted goalie coach can quiet some of the noise in Pavelec’s movement and get him to trust his own surface area and movement skills, it’s really not a stretch to think that he can continue a strong run of backup goaltending performances behind Lundqvist.
Cons: His conditioning and commitment to maximizing his ability have always been suspect
This has been the most consistent knock on Pavelec. When you look at someone like Lundqvist who is fully committed to being world-class, Pavelec has the reputation on simply riding his talent. Maybe being around a future Hall of Famer will put Pavelec in a good environment for success, but it is a concerning reputation.
Pro: He has handled a starter’s workload before
Pavelec has six seasons in his career playing over 50 games. While the Rangers are assuredly in deep trouble in Lundqvist misses an extended period of time, Pavelec has shown the capability to step in for a lengthy stretch without forcing the Rangers to seek outside help. I’m sure this was something of a factor for Allaire as Hank is firmly in his mid-30’s.
Con: Will he be willing to change his style at this point of his career?
In order for Allaire to be successful, Pavelec has to be willing and committed to making changes to his game. This is often a tough ask for a 30 year-old with ten years of pro experience. We obviously have no idea what type of human being Pavelec is at this point, but it would be a concern for any goaltender coming into this type of situation. You assume that the Rangers’ front office has accounted for this, but until you get to camp, you never really know.
Pro: He has a Bruce Springsteen mask
Let’s end this with a pro. Pavelec has a tribute mask to Bruce Springsteen, which is undeniable awesome. Nothing endears your to New Yorkers quicker than worshipping The Boss.
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the quality of the Rangers’ other goaltender and we likely won’t know how to really feel until the players hit the ice. Make no mistake, though, there is a significant element of risk here. With Branden Halverson in the AHL, there is some insurance there, but if Pavelec falters, the Rangers would likely have to go outside of the organization for help.
What do you think of the Pavelec signing? Sound off in the comments below."The Pro's and Con's of Ondrej Pavelec",