Goaltending

The pros and cons of a Henrik Lundqvist buyout

The possibility of buying out Henrik Lundqvist is real

Even before the Rangers called up Igor Shesterkin and he put up great numbers, the potential for a Henrik Lundqvist buyout was always there. It was slim, and it was something no one outside of the staunch Hank-haters was prepared to talk about, but it was there. The future seemed pretty clear cut. Hank rides out his contract, the Rangers trade Alex Georgiev this offseason, and Igor Shesterkin gets eased into the starter role.

While it appears to be that Shesterkin’s KHL-out clause forced the Blueshirts into their three-man goalie rotation, it was not without merit, as we’ve seen. There was no justification in keeping Shesterkin in the AHL. He didn’t need it. Since his recall, rumors were abound that it would be Georgiev that would be traded. While that hasn’t come to pass yet, and likely won’t until the draft, other options are now being discussed.

That main option is something Larry Brooks wrote about, that Henrik Lundqvist may be headed towards a buyout. The reasoning is that while Shesterkin is likely the goalie of the future, the Rangers want to hold on to Alex Georgiev, probably to help cement his trade value and justify what the Rangers are asking from other clubs as cost in a trade. In keeping Georgiev and Shesterkin, the Rangers give themselves insurance in case one flops.

Which brings us to the cost of buying out Henrik Lundqvist, something that I still think is unlikely. Hank carries an $8.5 million cap hit for next season. A buyout is pretty simple – he would be $5.5 million on the books next season and then $1.5 million the season after. Pretty simple math, actually. As with any decision, there are pros and cons to this approach.

Pros

The cap space is the biggest advantage here. The Blueshirts find themselves in a precarious –but not dreadful– cap situation next season. They need to be careful how they navigate the cap, but it’s also not nearly as bad as everyone thinks. The extra $3 million will give them some breathing room, much like the Vlad Namestnikov trade this year gave them breathing room. It’s tight, but not “trade someone now” tight. More on that later this week.

Buying out Hank also gets rid of the three headed goalie monster while potentially building trade value for Georgiev, who is still the odd man out in this situation as long as Shesterkin continues to develop. David Quinn has mentioned it’s no longer about keeping guys fresh, for what it’s worth, so does that mean the hot hand plays? There’s no clarity. Buying out Hank, or getting rid of any goalie, gives clarity.

Buying out Hank, assuming it is a mutual parting of ways and not the Rangers forcing him out, gives him a chance to win a Cup. I think we all want that for him.

Cons

The biggest con I see here is that the Rangers would be kicking the Georgiev trade can down the road at most one season. You never know what happens between now and then, and the question becomes is the risk worth it? Can the Rangers maximize Georgiev’s value now? If so, then trade him now. The odds of the Rangers keeping Georgiev over Shesterkin are slim.

Another big con is how it is perceived by the fans. Unless it is a true mutual split, then the Rangers will have bought out the face of their franchise for the past 15 years with nothing but bad blood to show for it. Buyouts are rarely mutual, as we saw with Dan Girardi and Kevin Shattenkirk, and to a lesser extent Brad Richards. This could be worrying just for the sake of worrying, but the risk is still there.

In our interview with Vince Mercogliano, he mentioned that this is Henrik Lundqvist’s locker room and he is the guy they all look up to. Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast, two other leaders, appear to be on their way out as well. Do you want the only holdovers from a leadership group to be Mika Zibanejad and Marc Staal?

Side note: There may not even be a full season in 2020-2021, with the expiring CBA still an issue. Are they really going to buyout Hank for half a season? Got my seasons mixed up.

I’m not in the camp of buying out Lundqvist unless there is a mutual parting of ways. There is a lot of value in packaging Georgiev at the draft to maximize value, while having Shesterkin take the starter reigns and have him learn from Lundqvist and Benoit Allaire. That said, there is no room for emotion in player decisions, so it has to be about how to move the Rangers forward properly. This is not an easy decision, and I certainly do not envy Jeff Gorton or John Davidson right now.

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  • There are no pros to buying out Hank, except honoring his wishes if he asks for one. Assuming he wants to start somewhere, you can move him, eat half his salary and *still* save more in cap space, plus getting assets back.

    Yes, he has a no-trade, but if the option is waiving it or playing 25 games behind Shesterkin next year, I expect he’ll waive for the right trade.

  • The CBA expires after 2021–22 season, so I don’t see why there wouldn’t be a full season next year. Also, if they did buyout Hank and gain $3M, at least half of that would be going to Georgiev who is due a raise from $792k, so the space added would be minimal.

  • I stated this to my friends….This is not a Hank issue….Some folks are quick to blame Hank, but this is a leadership issue….providing all these no-trade clauses. Solution…Stop with the no-trade clauses….

  • It’s nothing personal against Hank, but I think the best option is to trade him. I know the NMC, but I am not sure how he can look at the situation and not see what is best for the team. And moving Hank is best for the team. A buy out should be choice B. I am not crazy about a buyout, but I think having the cap space is important.(but not the only reason) I also think a tandem of Shesterkin and Georgiev works fine for a few years. Realistically Tyler Wall is next up to be Igor’s back up. Hopefully he goes to Hartford next year.(no guarantee but hopefully) he’s a few years away from being the back up and most likely projects to be a number 1 if his college career gives us an idea. So I am not sure I agree that Georgiev losses value if he’s not traded now. A good new contract could add value, as well as going back to a 2 goalie rotation.

    I have to think Hank might be be amendable to a trade if a buyout was looming. There is nothing wrong with him chasing a cup elsewhere. Which would most likely be in Colorado. And if he can moved him even at half his salary that opens us up to being able to keep Kreider. (if we chose to and all the RFA’s) And that is the future.

    As for leadership, we are seeing the changing of the guard here. You need to let go of the old and welcome in the new. We will be real good in a few years. But there won’t be Hank or Staal and maybe not Fast and Kreider either. There will be new leadership. New faces to look forward to cheering on. and New faces to provide leadership.

    Hank has been a great Ranger and he has had a great run. I am thankful for so many great moments he has brought to the fans. But I also believe, it is in the teams best interest to move on. It’s not personal, it is business.

    • There’s a thin line that the Rangers need to walk. Yes, there needs to be a transition to a new core, but some continuity MUST be maintained. If you doubt that, look at Edmonton. They’ve had multiple VERY high draft picks (Four #1 overall since 2010), because they kept chasing the next unmistakeable, can’t miss, superstar and trading away “role players” to get that bright, shiny, new player, and in that time they’ve made the playoffs ONCE, and only won one series. By contrast, the Rangers were in the playoffs 11 out of 12 years before they started this rebuild, selectively adding players as they aged or good deals became available, but always building on a solid core group. I think that they’ll add a few new guys this off season, and hopefully get another good draft pick, but I don’t want to see them gut the locker room and then hope that they can rebuild the lost chemistry.

      • The Rangers can’t be Edmonton. I looked at the 2013-2014 Edmonton roster as an example (not any others though I suspect the picture is the same). They had some good young talent, most notably Taylor Hall, but the only person resembling a veteran star was Sam Gagner, someone who had never scored 50 points. [And they even got rid of Gagner after that season!] It is much much easier to maintain or build a winning culture if you have Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. I think the Rangers could get rid of 21 of the 23 players on the current roster and still not face the problems of building a team the Oilers did.

      • The Oilers are so mismanaged that they are just not a good comparison for anything..other than sheer incompetence.

  • “something no one outside of the staunch Hank-haters was prepared to talk about”

    What a wonderful it must be where you can dismiss everyone who disagrees with you by calling them names.

    Seriously, many of us here are armchair GMs. That is one of the things that is fun for us. Buying out bad contracts is one of the tools a real general manager has at his disposal and a Lundqvist buyout is a rational option that is worth considering. Now, there are two kinds of people who refuse to consider this option. There are those who, like Walt, oppose all buyouts – a very defensible position. There are those who love Hank to the extent that they refuse to be rational on this subject. [Note: This is also not a criticism. None of us are rational about everything.] Of course, not everyone who rationally considers the option will choose to use it in their plan.

    The key point is this though. It is not Hank haters advocating a buyout. It is those who put love of Hank before team interests who have found the idea anathema.

  • As for leadership, we are seeing the changing of the guard here. You need to let go of the old and welcome in the new. We will be real good in a few years…Andy, here in lies the problem…Many Ranger fans have lost there patience…..Does this mean another teo years of non-playoff hockey? That would total 5 years and I actually had said that it would take 3-5 years, but again patience is a virture and not guaranteed in Ranger land.

    Ranger fans are not used to rebuilds,

  • Does Seattle play a role here, similar to the Fluery situation. Does Henrik stay in NY for next year, mentoring Igor and be sent out West to a city that is pretty cool (Henrik could like it) and be the Kind of the West bringing the new franchise into the NHL as royalty?

  • I take issue with the notion that cap problems are not serious. I would like to keep Kreider, DeAngelo, Fast, Strome and that simply does not appear possible -so the squeeze is real – BUT buyouts don’t work very well.

    The Rangers can reduce their cap hit. $3M by buying out Lundqvist, $2.1M+ by buying out Staal, $1.6M by buying out Smith — at first glance a savings of $6.7M. However, half of the amounts are simply moved to the following year and so the net savings are less than $3.4M. But it is even worse than that. If the players are not bought out, the Rangers can keep Hank as the backup goaltender, Staal as the seventh defenseman, and send Smith to Hartford.

    The Smith demotion saves $1.1M. Without Staal, the Rangers would need a seventh defenseman at a cost of approximately $800K. Without Hank, the Rangers must pay arbitration-eligible Georgiev. I’m guessing $1.2M for the sake of this discussion. Using my reasonable but imprecise numbers, the cap savings for next year for all three moves is $3.6M, scarcely more than the penalty for the following year. The Smith buyout is particularly dumb.

    The other argument for and against buyouts is whether you actually want these players around or want them gone. Since Smith can and should be sent to Hartford and as Hartford always needs a few veteran defensemen, his presence is fairly irrelevant either way. The Staal and Lundqvist situations are more problematic because of the NMCs. I would contend that Staal is relatively harmless if he accepts his role (and if he won’t accept his role, he should retire as he knows what it will be). The standard defense setup is six guys who play and one guy who watches, filling in when someone is banged up or slightly injured. In case of a long term injury, he may also play but can also be bypassed favor of a call-up from Hartford. That #7 slot is simply inappropriate for a Keane, Rykov, Lundqvist, or Miller. Frankly, if I buy out Staal or if Marc retires, I would either give the job to Raddysh or sign a veteran castoff.

    Finally, the Lundqvist case is trickier, because of Georgiev , because of his skill, and because he is Lundqvist. The Georgiev factor is easy. You can’t keep both Hank and Georgi. The other two factors are trickier to assess and here everyone will take sides according to how they feel about Hank. Obviously, Hank is a capable enough backup. The problem (in my eyes) and the benefit (in the view of Hank devotees) is that Hank stands in place to regain the mantle if Shesty starts to stumble, especially in the postseason. A handful of years back, Brock Osweiler took Denver to the playoffs, but it was Peyton Manning who lost the Super Bowl. Do the Hank devotees really want to see the the Rangers raise the Cup with Hank watching the entire playoffs? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

  • If the Rangers win a cup, who cares who is in net. Play the best goalie. Look at Fleury / Murray split in the Pen’s most recent cup. Murray won rounds 3 and 4 but it was Fleury who got them past WAS in round 2- which was THE toughest matchup for them that post season (7 games I think). Perfect example of how to handle 2 goalies in a post season. It’s not a thing until people like Brooks write and make it one. The fix- don’t read the crap he peddles.

  • I think it would be in the best interest of the Hank and team (except Henriks financial) to retire after this season… Age caught him, and continuation is going to be only suffering

    • Unfortunately that would be classy. Be like Drury, retire and get a position in NYR org (financially he be fine, if within org ala Graves, Drury, etc) or he could be model in NYC. I would love to see a Shesterkin and Georgiev tandem.

  • “Buying out Hank, assuming it is a mutual parting of ways and not the Rangers forcing him out, gives him a chance to win a Cup. I think we all want that for him.”

    If that’s the case why wouldn’t Hank just let the franchise he loves trade him???

    Re: Georgiev, you suggest that they’re hoping to solidify his trade value —- and that’s a “risk”. However I would suggest they keep him to have a solid one-two punch. I mean do we want Shesty playing 65 games a year like Anderson? You move Georgiev and the “cap relief” doesn’t make a dent, but Hank retiring/being traded puts us in a great position capwise.

    • There are two problems with a Lundqvist trade. The first is that, with a buyout, Hank gets to decide where he wants to go. With a trade the options are much more limited. Second, what exactly is Hank’s trade value? Even with the Rangers picking up half his salary, his cap hit for next year is substantial. Maybe there are teams that will jump at the chance, but surely not very many.

      • Um, just ask him which teams he would agree to play for … and eating half his salary is still about a $1M saving over buying him out. As far as compensation, anything is better than nothing, better than having to trade Georgiev and getting less than TRUE value for him … and especially better than just dead cap space. I really don’t see the issue here Ray.

        Otherwise he can just retire and I’m sure the Rangers can find a way to um um um, to compensate him with a job in the organization (even if that might infuriate Bettman in some way, wink wink nod nod … you know what I mean, you know what I mean)?!

        • Suppose Team X has cap issues and Hank wants to play for them. Suppose they are willing to pay Hank $2M for his services next year, but they cannot handle a cap hit of $4M+. You cannot make a trade work even with half salary retained. But the buyout, Hank signs with X scenario works.

          Obviously (I think), Hank does not waive his NMC to go somewhere he does not want to go but the buyout, sign elsewhere option expands the market for his services. Yes, the trade option is better for the Rangers, but maybe it doesn’t work. In that case, the buyout may actually be a favor a Hank.

  • The Ranger fan in me never wants Hank in another uniform, nor forced to sit out due to a retirement or a buyout.

    But the reality is that the Rangers are making a decision between Hank and Georgiev. Or at least they appear to be making that decision and leaning the way of Georgie. And why not? The age difference is night and day, so why not keep the 2 younger goalies? Shesty is the undisputed #1 goalie right now, and going forward. Not even Georgie has a shot to knock him off that perch.

    But here’s the thing and most fans do not want to hear it: Georgie is still unproven. He’s been fine, not great, hovering around 3 GAA per game. But the PERCEPTION around the league is that he could be a cheap #1 goalie, so why not trade him as a valuable trade asset? At that point, you let Hank mentor Shesty, as Shesty’s back up next year. Hank is still playing well, even if it is not up to his past years’ standards.

    Get rid of Staal, Smith, Skji, Strome, and Fast, and you can sign Kreider and ADA.

    • I agree with you on Georgiev, at least in part. He is most definitely unproven. Unfortunately, his credentials are nowhere near those of Talbot when he was traded and the Rangers got a weak package for Talbot which ultimately amounted to nothing. If the Rangers can get a nice package for Georgiev, I agree that they should take it. I am not confident on that point, but very happy to be proved wrong.

      • Toronto being out of the mix really hurts, but Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, and Edmonton could come calling.

  • Hank could be a real team player here see the vision and direction and waive his no trade clause.

    If he had won a cup I’d say keep him but the only person this decade who should retire on the same team is Eli Manning.

    That’s two rings and two mvps.

    • And most of Eli’s career he finished out of the playoffs. And most years he was a mediocre QB at best.

      Eli and Henrik aren’t really comparable. Totally different sports, one was consistently great and one was sporadically great. Both were great in the clutch and emblematic of their franchise.

  • One other pro for buying out Leaky is he could resign with a rival club. Which would mean one less team the Rangers have to compete with for a playoff spot next year.

  • Before Hank got here, the Rangers missed the playoffs for 8 straight years. From his inception, the Rangers made the playoffs 11 of his first 12 seasons. How fast you people forget. One of the greatest Rangers players in history should never wear any uniform other than the New York Rangers!!!

    • We all whither and die Bullet man. And we all are well aware of Lundqvists past elite play. But this is the here and now. The Rangers have 2 very good goalies and one of the 2 may quite likely become an all-star. Would you like to see the Ranger organization move forward and build a competitive team or would you rather bask in Henks glory years.

    • Lots of pathetic Ranger fans blame Lundqvist for….something? They make a lot of noise, ignore stats, ignore reality….lots of that going around these days. Nice to see some people still recognize greatness when they’ve seen it, instead of whining about signed contracts.

    • Silver Bullet Man

      “One of the greatest Rangers players in history should never wear any uniform other than the New York Rangers!!!”

      Here lies the problem, your thinking with your heart, not bad, instead of your brain much better. I’ve always been a Hank fan, and will always be, but he is finished, and he should walk away with his head held high!!!!!!!
      This is no attempt to put you, or any other fan down for thinking like you do…………

  • You have Georgie for 1season more trade him now because u can only protect one goalie in expansion.its no brained and keep Hank for his last year

    • Except the Rangers don’t have to protect Hank (expiring contract) or Shesty (2 years or less in the NHL), so it’s a no brainer to just protect Georgiev.

  • I’ve always thought Lundqvist is a class act, and there’s a scenario in my head, but I dont know enough front office stuff to know how it’d work. Henrik unlikely to be a starter at his age barring another team’s misfortune. What if he fell on his sword and just retired and forfeited his final year’s salary? Or am I an idiot?

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