Should the Rangers sign a UFA backup?

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Last July, the Rangers reversed course with their backup goalie plan when they signed Ondrej Pavelec to a one-year deal.  Typically, Benoit Allaire has taken youngish goaltenders with upside remaining and helped them reach their potential.  That upside has brought serious production to the backup goaltender position.  With Pavelec, he was banking a guy who had NHL success being able to resurrect his career.  A little bit of a different plan.

The results were mixed. Overall, Pavelec was fine and had some downright fantastic games in blue.  However, injuries and long stretches where Alain Vigneault was not willing to play Pavelec somewhat derailed the original intention.  Late in the season, a youngster named Alexandar Georgiev had a short cameo, indicating he was ready to get a longer look in the NHL.

Now, the Rangers’ intentions for this coming season have been made verbally clear; they intend to put a competitive team on the ice.  Of course, the final roster after a (presumably) busy offseason will dictate whether or not that is actually true. However, when looking at what the organization could or should be looking to do has to be viewed through the lens of a quick turnaround on the re-build.  There are a lot of variables regarding more central issues that we won’t be able to properly evaluate until at least the Draft, but the question I want to look at today; should the Rangers sign a UFA backup?

Henrik Lundqvist will start the 2018-2019 season at 36 years-old.  By the time it ends, he will be 37.  After a significant workload this past season, it is imperative that he be given absolutely no more than 60 starts next year.  The theory behind a UFA signing would be allowing Georgiev to stay in the AHL and get the lion’s share of the playing time at that level to continue his development, while creating a layer of depth in case of injury or ineffectiveness.  That’s all well and good, but the NHL backup still needs to produce.  Let’s take a look at some upcoming UFA’s to see if there could be a new pet project for Benoit Allaire…

There are 21 goaltenders slated to become UFA’s this July.  There are several we can weed out immediately: Scott Wedgewood (little to no upside, no track record at NHL level), Mike McKenna (career AHL’er), Jeff Glass (nice story, but no track record), Cam Ward (just no at this point), Christopher Gibson (no track record), Maxime Legace (no track record), Harri Sateri (no track record) and Antti Niemi (god no).  While Allaire is a magician, he still needs reasonable upside to work with. Even though some of the younger guys have some upside, it would be a very quick turnaround to try to make them capable backups for 25-30 games.

So, that’s 8 out of 21 off the board.  That leaves 13 available options.  Let’s break them into tiers:

The Pipe Dream: Carter Hutton

While Hutton is 32 and shouldn’t command a huge contract in terms of money or years, he has played so well for the Blues the past two seasons he is definitely going to want more playing time.  Unless his market really craters, there is no realistic scenario in which he ends up on Broadway.

The Upside Plays: Michael Hutchinson, Laurent Broissoit, and Eddie Lack

These guys all offer a mix of youth and upside.   They all have a track record of (at least reasonable) success at the NHL level.  I could envision all three being 25 GP, 2.50 GAA and .920 sv% guys with the right adjustments. Eddie Lack may be permanently broken, but if anyone can fix him, it’s Allaire.  Think of this crew as somewhere in the middle of Raanta and Pavelec for a starting point.

The Veteran Backups: Andrew Hammond, Jonathan Bernier, Reto Berra, Anton Khudobin, Chad Johnson, Ondrej Pavelec.

These guys are going to be safest bets, both in cost and results.  You more or less know what kind of production would get in them, with hopefully a little Allaire uptick.  Nothing sexy here, just reliable small sample play.  I think Bernier and Khudobin are your best bets out of this crew.

The Displaced Starters: Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak

Both of these guys turned in comparable production last year in the last years of big contracts.  Both are in their thirties and we have no idea what their expectations for either role, cap hit or term looks like.  They might both be happy to only be on their feet for 25 games on a one-year deal.  They could also be looking to continue in a least a platoon role, who knows?

Either way, there is something for Allaire to work with here, but I don’t know if the risk is worth the reward.

As you can see, there isn’t many great UFA goaltending options this offseason.  Personally, I fully understand the benefit of depth, but Georgiev is signed dirt cheap for two more years.  You might as well take advantage of that nice cap hit before bringing in a guy at $1m+ not knowing if that investment will pay off the way your in-house option would at under $800k.  Now, we aren’t talking huge numbers here, but I think I would be more confident giving 30 games to Georgiev next season than any of the guys on this list, save for Hutton.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet would be to try to get one of the guys with no track record listed above on a deal to play in the AHL.  I think that would be my preferred route, and let Georgiev handle backup duties.

What do you guys think?  Is Georgiev and Halverson enough depth?  Should the Rangers bring in another depth guy?  An NHL backup? Take a quick minute to vote. Have a great weekend!

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  • Go with Georgiev, he can play some 30-35 games, and not skip a beat. Hank doesn’t need to play more than 50-55 games next year. This assures us Hank is well rested for the PO’s should we make them, and the kid gets enough playing time to help develop his skills as well!!!!!!!

    • I agree Walt. Get the kid into at least 30 games and that should make him sharp and keep Hank rested and sharp too. Nothing wrong with learning at the NHL level. I think he proved himself ready at the end of last season.

      However, I am not certain that the organization is going to do this. They might opt to have Pav as the backup if they can.

      • Peter

        I was thinking the same thing, but Pav may want too much to be a back up, where as the kid is on an entry level contract, and just may be a better goalie!!!!!!

        • Pav has very little negotiating power, he could be brought back for a song and a prayer. I say stick with Georgiev.

    • Another reason to go with Georgiev is because he’s locked in the AHL after his season when Shestyorkin comes over the following season. 2019-2020 will be Hank and Shestyorkin with Georgiev in Hartford until he’s traded or Hank retires.

      Another thing to consider is that if he shows enough, Seattle may take him in the expansion draft because he’s a good, young prospect with a full year of NHL experience.

      • Will need to have a goalie to expose for the draft, might as well pump the tires on him so Georgiev will have better trade value even if not selected by Seattle. Making him better also will protect other skaters.

    • First time he played I was very impressed at how poised he was, calm, and very efficient in his movements. No flailing.

      I think the back up job is his to lose.

  • Georgiev has earned the shot, it’d be a waste of his utility to the Rangers to not have him on the roster. Commit to a specific rotation with Hank next year and a specific number of starts for both netminders.

    And lastly—I’d like to propose the nickname “the Premier” for Georgiev, in a nod to Brezhnev & late Soviet history, as Shestyorkin needs to have “the Tsar” saved for his Ranger career.

  • Nope, the back-up should be Georgiev. And he should get a meaningful amount of starts against a good number of quality opposition.
    Remember we are rebuilding and not worrying about Hank getting 30 wins. That streak was broken last season, so for once go with what’s best for the TEAM and not any one individual. God I am SO happy AV is gone.

  • The least of our problems right now is the backup goalie. Whomever it is. it is up to Allaire to make them better and the coach to play them. I am sure we can find a suitable backup either within the organization or via a cheap 1 year deal to a FA.

    1.5 days until the ping pong balls make or break 2018/19

  • I don’t like giving 60 game to Hank no matter who the backup is. I be happy letting the kid split the games evenly with Hank in the first half, then reevaluate things based on our position in Jan.

  • Can they carry three? I’d like to see Georgiev in the NHL but if he falters, I’d like a stable third so we can send him back. Georgiev is still unproven. If we really want Hank to not get such a heavy load this season, we need a proven backup. This is why I’d like to carry three if possible, at least for the first two months or so, say.

    • They could, but you are likely to need a forward more than a 3rd goalie. Figure 23 players. The 20 starters + 3. Usually 2 forwards and a 7th defenseman. You could make one of the 3 a goalie, but that is rare.

  • No backup. Let Georgiev be the backup. In a limited sample size last year he earned the spot. And you need to show the young guys if you come to play you will stay with the big team. On the one hand he may benefit from being in the AHL because he will play more, but with the big Club he will work with Allarie. Give him a shot.

    • Given the fact that when Igor comes over chances are Georgiev ends up in the AHL or picked up by Seattle in the expansion draft (well, maybe), it probably makes sense to have him backup Hank most of the year while occasionally sending him to the A and calling up Halverson when things are a bit slower. That gives Allaire more time with Halverson to prepare him to be the backup to Igor — although who knows if he turns out to be a bust or if he gets surpassed by either Wall or Huska (both of whom should be graduating in 2 years).

      • I like that plan.And with all the prospects who will hopefully be heading to Hartford this fall we need solid goal tending down there too so the prospects learn winning ways down there. I also like the idea of just bringing up our goalie prospects. Let them rotate in and see what they can do in the NHL.

  • I hate to say this but as long as hank is here we won’t be able to really gauge our goalies.

    While Georgiev is a nice surprise , shestyorkyn is also there.

    Plus that cap hit hurts while we rebuild.

    Hank just needs to stop being selfish and let us trade him at the draft.

  • It is a tough toss up. Whoever the back up proves to be he has to be young and willing to sit. Hank is a selfish prick and wants to play every game. It is tough to put a kid in that position and have him succeed. So this is the toss up. Bring a vet and let him and hank fight it over for playing time. A rookie has no ground to stand on and therefore is useless in winning playing time over hank. A vet not named pavelec could do well to undermine hank and get him atleast thinking about leaving. But the front office has it’s hands tied so the only thing to do is to let 2 goalies battle it out. And if the team can gel at the right moment and hank is on the bench he will or might continue to ride the bench. Which would make hank consider leaving for a cup.

    Now if it is a kid at backup…there should be a strict game schedule that the coach and everyone involved follows. Start hank every game for the first 15 to 20 games and if we are contenders ride him like the bull he is at that point. Cause they only way this team next year contends is if hank is on fire.

    Now after the 20 games if we are in last or close to it….start out small …say 1 game for hank and 2 games for the kid. And just keep escalating til hank sits on the bench for weeks at a time. slowly phase him out. So he realizes he is no longer needed and is just hurting the team with that albatross of a contract.

  • I guess we’re going to find out if that meaningless 3 game winning streak out west killed our drafting position.

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