The Rangers are making the most of their goaltending situation

Believe it or not, they are making the best of a bad situation

Coming into this season, it seemed fairly likely that Igor Shesterkin would need enough seasoning in the AHL following his KHL career that the Rangers could comfortably navigate their goalie situation.   Alex Georgiev has been a perfectly capable backup goaltender for the Rangers, who may be capable of more, but it was fairly clear that Shesterkin was the future in goal.

Fast forward to January, the young Russian has made it far more complicated for the organization than many might have envisioned.  Suffering from almost no acclimation issues to the North American game, Shesterkin looked confident and solid in training camp, and although he was assigned to Hartford, he left many with the impression he would be knocking at the door sooner than later.

In 25 games with the Wolf Pack, Shesterkin has approximated and even bested his video game-KHL numbers, with a 17-4-3 record, 1.90 GAA and a .934 save percentage in the AHL.   His performance obviously forced the organization’s hand a bit, given the management debacles of Lias Andersson and Vitali Kravtsov.

I believe under normal circumstances, the club would have continued to provide encouragement and acknowledgment of the player’s performance, but reminded him his NHL career was likely to start next season, but after those incidents, the organization made the right decision to reward the merits of his play with an NHL call up, even if it created a sort of awkward 3-headed goaltender situation.

At the NHL level, Shesterkin has put up a very respectable 2.68 GAA and .929 save percentage.   Small sample sizes aside, he has looked incredibly poised and comfortable with the speed of the game.  His movements are explosive and efficient, he is tracking the puck well and not getting jittery/overwhelmed by the NHL game.

Dave has mentioned on several occasions that the best return for Alex Georgiev would likely materialize at the Draft, rather than the trade deadline, so the Rangers are in a bit of a tough spot.  The easy move would be to cash in Georgiev before the end of February and officially begin the Shesterkin era.  Under the circumstances, I think the Rangers are exercising their best option by picking their spots with Shesterkin and riding out the end of the year to maximize the return for Georgiev.

By all accounts, this structure is a little awkward, not really providing the appropriate amount of playing time to any of the three goaltenders but given the fact that the Rangers are highly unlikely to make the playoffs this season, it lightens the impact of that issue.  From an asset management perspective, I believe this is the best the Rangers can do to simultaneously reward Shesterkin for his play while not shipping Georgiev out for a lesser return or damaging his trade value by sending him to Hartford.

Is it possible teams will understand that the Rangers are in a no-win situation with their goaltending this offseason and wait them out for lesser value in a Georgiev trade? Sure, it’s possible.  The ticking clock of the deadline or the Draft might help create the sense of urgency the Rangers are looking for, but only time will tell.

In the meantime, the Rangers needed a way to try to balance this situation in the most tolerable way possible.  Against their historic track record in these types of situations, they seem to have found the best path forward, despite its limitations.  I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to move Georgiev at the deadline if the return is right.  Quite frankly, that would make the situation much easier to manage.

It’s possible that the Rangers decide that Shesterkin should stay in Hartford, post All-Star break to get the reps and playing time to continue his development.  His cup of coffee in the show could have just been a little reward for his performance so far.   He might also be back up for the Rangers game on Friday.  It will be interesting to keep an eye on the club’s handling of the situation going forward.

At the end of the day though, maintaining flexibility and managing asset values are the most important considerations here, and the Rangers have been making the best of a challenging position.

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  • This is a tough situation. Yes it could be worse but It’s not ideal. I am wondering if we trade Kreider and get another first, could we package that other first plus Georgiev…and what else is needed to land a big return? I am thinking Nylander. And Toronto doesn’t have a first. ( it’s top 10 protected)This can also be done at the draft. I am concerned if we hold out until then, teams will see us as desperate. Time will tell.

    • I see it as much as an opportunity as a problem. Managed properly, and I think your suggestion. among other possibilities, could be a way of doing that. Offensively, with Andersson seemingly back in the fold, Kravstov developing in Hartford, Pajnuniemi and Barron making waves; and defensively having Lundkvist, Rykov, and Keane looking like real possibilities, the trade possibilities seem endless. Whether we use them, or marginal players already on the roster, as sweeteners along with the usual prospects, we could see substantial, and beneficial, improvements next year. Maybe some of them could be paired with players whose cap hits we can’t afford and traded to teams with cap space who are looking for youth. Something like Skjei + Georgiev + Howden + Andersson, or Smith + Georgiev + Hajek, for draft picks.

    • Depends on what you mean by soon. Do we want to have this resolved before next season? Of course we do. Is it crucial that we do something before the trade deadline? No, it’s not.

  • Having three goalies rarely works out for teams. Regardless of what happens moving forward I believe the Rangers will be using Hank as a backup for the remainder of his contract. They’ll either send Shetsy back to Hartford for the rest of the year and showcase Georgie for either the trade deadline or for a trade at the draft. The longer the track record Georgie compiles the better his value will be (assuming he plays well). After the trade of Georgie Shetsy will step in and Hank will mentor him.

    The other alternative is Hank sees the writing on the wall that he’ll be a backup for 1.5 seasons and will agree to be moved. Probably a .5% chance of this happening.

    I don’t think the Rangers can send Georgie to Hartford w/o him being placed on waivers, Justin. He’s out of options.

    • I can’t see inside Hank’s head, but it seems to me that this is good thing. Making being a Ranger goalie uncomfortable for Hank (and doing it in a perfectly reasonable way I might add) pressures him to either retire or request a trade, two positive outcomes. Whether this pressure is relevant is what we can’t know.

      • I’m in favor of the 3 headed goalie monster. Wouldn’t bother me one bit if Hank retires at the end of the season, he’s been a great Ranger but there comes a time for every great player to retire while they’re still capable. That said, although it might bother me some to see him finish out his career with another club, I can accept that result as well —- love Hank, but love the Rangers MORE. No player supersedes the needs of the team.

        By the same token, if the Rangers get a damn good offer for Georgiev, I can live with him being traded as well — assuming Hank can accept an altered role in tandem with Shesterkin and the possibility of signing a short term 1 year deal when his contract is up — unless either Wall or Huska prove themselves capable of backing up Shesty.

        Time will tell …

        • I agree on the damn good offer for Georgiev. Previously I wanted to hold onto Georgiev because I wanted to make sure the Rangers kept the better of their two young goalies and I did not know who that was. I think now that it seems clear that it is Shesty (previously only suspected) and there is no reason not to sell Georgi for the right price.

  • I think Shesterkin was sent back to Hartford because of the prolonged All Star break. I suspect he will be brought back. next week.

  • If Georgiev isn’t traded at the deadline, IMO, that increases the chances that we might be looking at an “Eli Manning” situation for Hank. Yes, they could trade Georgie at the draft, but Hank will then be squarely facing the prospect of being a bench warmer: barring an injury to Igor… that’s his future with the club. Is that what he wants? Do you really believe that a guy who thrives on work, can keep playing at a good enough level only getting on the ice maybe once or twice a week? At his age? And if his play suffers, fans are brutal—King or NO King!
    And the constant questioning of his status by reporters….leading up to another deadline where he has to consider once again whether or not he wants to latch on to a contender? I can’t see a player of his stature wanting to go through that. I’m NOT calling him selfish or washed up. If he can adjust his game to being the number 2…if he can live with that…then fine. Trade Georgie now and get as much as you can. I just don’t see it.
    I admit, it might not be the type of ending worthy of the “King,” but Manning’s ending was far from what he deserved. It is what it is. There really is no good ending to this…unless you believe the team is stronger going forward with the two kids. I believe they are. No knock on Hank…again…it is what it is.

    • Send Shesty back to Hartford. Good for Hartford and can’t hurt Shesty if he goes back with the certainty that he’s the team’s future.. Let Georgie continue to increase his value playing out the season with Hank. Trade him at the deadline or at the draft or whenever a great deal appears. Work REAL HARD to get the forward, defenseman and defensive system we need. Then, next year, platoon Shesty and Hank. Pipe dream? There’s no reason they can’t compete for the Vezina like Eddie and Gilles did back in 1971!

      • It hurts Shesterkin in the pocketbook. On the Rangers’ roster, he makes $925,000 per year, in Hartford he makes $70,000 per year. There are also performance bonuses in his contract, but I don’t know the details about how they work.

    • Considering that the whole league, not just the Rangers, seems to be going toward less games for the starting goalie and more for the backup, he won’t be warming the bench as might have been the case. Personally, I think that Henrik’s love for the Rangers and New York means that he’ll accept the backup/mentor role without any complaints.

    • The Rangers would have a cap hit of $3M for next year.

      The rules are quite simple. Hank’s cap hit is supposed to be $8.5M, but his salary is actually only $5.5M. That means he has already been paid $3M of the money he is supposedly earning next year. So the Rangers have to make up the $3M, but they are free from the $5.5M because it is money that Hank will never have been paid.

      • Ray… I believe Staal’s actual salary for next season is 3.2 mil. and his cap-hit is 5.7 mil. Now if they traded Staal, hypothetically, and retained 50% salary would it be 50% of the 3.2 or the 5.7? How would that work?

        • The 50% retained would be 50% of $5.7M, which is actually good for the Rangers. If it were 50% of the smaller number (actually $4.2M as the signing bonus counts), the Rangers would be on the hook for the extra $1.5M.

          Incidentally, these low salaries make buyouts less attractive as the savings on Lundqvist, Staal, Smith are fractions of the actual salaries ($5.5M, $4.2M, $3.35M) and not the cap hits.

          Finally, I might note that if the Rangers trade any of the three after the signing bonus is paid (in each case one million dollars) and retain half salary, the other team saves money relative to the cap hit. In the case of Staal, the other team would only be out $1.6M in cash to pay Staal but would accept a cap hit of $2.85M, reducing the Ranger cap hit to $2.85M. IMO, though most here would disagree, this would be a good deal for a team with no cap issues (and an even better deal for a team concerned about the floor if any such team exists).

          By the same reasoning, they could get Lundqvist for $2.25M or Smith for less than $1.2M. Of course, Hank and Marc have NMCs.

  • I wonder what it would take to get Jordan Greenway from Minnesota? Brooks mentioned Rangers are interested. He’s 22, 6’6″ and 220–with some offensive upside. What’s reasonable to give, do the Rangers have what the Wild would want and is it in their best interest?

    Quinn coached him at BU, he’s big and plays a North/South game. He is an ideal playoff player.

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