I’ll follow the same layout as I did for the Defence; Now, Next, Needs.
In short; the position is healthy but in need of attention. The Rangers have the best starting goaltender in the world when you consider all the main factors; age, contract length, experience, status and talent. Jersey’s Martin Brodeur may have the rings Henrik Lundqvist (and all of us) wants but he has no real future long term. However it’s after Henrik where it gets problematic. Superman can’t fight every fight and ‘The King’ also needs a rest. This season five goalies saw game time in the New York crease. That kind of instability doesn’t help. Valliquette imploded and while Chad Johnson showed talent he didn’t earn the trust of the coach and wasn’t given the opportunity to prove he’s ready for a long stint in the NHL. He needs another season in the AHL. Then there was Alex Auld who barely featured upon joining the club playing in just 3 games.
Next: Excuse the comparison but having goaltending depth is becoming a similar problem for The Rangers as it was/is for the New Jersey Devils – anyone with a memory remember The Devils drafting Ari Ahonen – the next big thing?! Exactly…. With an established, elite goalie in place long term there’s only so much attention the position garners come draft time or in free agency. Antoine Lafleur was a disaster given he cost The Rangers a 2nd round pick. Current draft pick Scott Stajcier (in the OHL) has shown talent but is a long way from pro at best. Then there are the college alumni in Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba. RFA, Zaba will top out as a minor leaguer but Johnson’s acquisition for a low draft pick off Pittsburgh has proven to be an astute move. My opinion is that he has talent, size, has some untapped potential and may well be the back up of the future, potentially more though elsewhere. The Rangers recently picked up another NCAA goalie, Cameron Talbot and at this stage he’s a wild card destined to start in the minors. After that however and the cupboard is bare. Fingers crossed ‘The King’ really is here long term.
Needs: Quite simply a reliable back up. I was one who personally called for Alex Auld to be given some more ice time – to audition for next year – but the season ending 7-1-2 stretch with Henrik given the starts proved Torts right not to turn to Auld. Lundqvist was lights-out 95% of the time. However he must not start more than 70 games next year if we’re not to burn him out. We did see some instances where Henrik seemed tired, let in a few weak goals and I firmly believe that was due to being over worked. Auld would be a good choice as a back up (83 career NHL wins) and his significant experience in the NHL should mean he’s considered. Chad Johnson will be best served not riding the bus back and for from NY and spend a full year in the AHL with Hartford. The Rangers would be well advised to grab a goalie late in the draft too. Don’t let the well run dry.
Personally – despite a few hick up’s – I think Lundqvist played Vezina nomination worthy again this year. had this team made the playoffs and had he therefore won just a few more games he’d be behind Miller and Bryglazov in the voting. The Rangers goaltending situation is, in one respect, the envy of the league but you can’t luck out with 7th round Swedish prodigy’s every year so The Rangers need to keep an eye on the position and sort out one of their Achilles heels (back up) ASAP.