On a Lundqvist buyout, trading Trouba/Strome/Fast

As the regular season rolls on, the Rangers have won four of their last five.  This recent run of improved form has been propelled by improved process and development of young players but continues to negatively impact the lottery odds for a high pick in a stacked draft.  Pick your poison.  The deadline looms large, with the Blueshirts in an enviable position of holding a significant variety of assets that contending teams would find useful.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this deadline/offseason might be the single biggest indicator about the long-term success of the rebuild.

These organizational decisions; who to deal and who to keep, and on what terms, will show the team’s true colors with how the next phase of this process plays out, and what kind of team they are ultimately building.  That’s going to come back later, though.  In the meantime, I have some thoughts…

Lundqvist Buy-Out

The idea has been floated around more recently about buying out Henrik Lundqvist’s final contractual season in 2020-2021. Lundqvist carries an $8.5 million cap hit next season and a buy-out would save $3m ($5.5 million cap hit), while he carries a $4.5 million actual salary.  This would be stupid.

The Rangers are currently projected to have a hair over $16.5 million in cap space (based on this year’s $81.5m cap) to fill 9 roster spots.  Five of the spots are already in the organization as RFA’s and the cap will surely increase a small amount. The defense stays almost entirely intact (for better or worse) and Kreider and Fast are your biggest replacements.

Raises to Strome, DeAngelo and Lemieux (if they aren’t traded) can be offset by smaller dollar contracts to Vitali Kravtsov, Phil Di Guiseppe or other low-cost bottom six players.  Plus, after next season, Brendan Smith, Marc Staal, Lundqvist and Shattenkirk’s big buy-out hit are all off the books.  That’s just over $23 million (!), right there.

To push for an ugly divorce with an all-time franchise great with a year left on his deal, while he is still performing, no less, would be absolutely bonkers.  There is a decent probability, given his brand attachment and affinity to the New York market, that he would re-sign to be Shesterkin’s backup in one-year intervals.  I think this would be the preferred route for all involved if Hank wasn’t looking for a Ray Bourque moment.

An underrated aspect to all this is, is that given Lundqvist’s cerebral and hyper-technical approach to the position, Hank could be well positioned to be the successor to Benoit Allaire, who is approaching 60 years of age.  A buy-out would be an incredibly short-sighted decision on the organization’s part.

Shesterkin’s Performance

Speaking of goaltending, Igor Shesterkin has been everything Rangers’ fan could have ever expected and more.  His blend of technical discipline and athleticism is something really unique.  I will do a full scouting report on him when the sample size gets a little bigger, but seriously, enjoy watching him.  He is something special.

Georgiev’s Future

Sticking with the goaltending theme, the whole Georgiev aspect of this situation has completely lost the forest for the trees.  Georgiev is a perfectly acceptable backup goaltender, who is maybe capable of more, similar to Cam Talbot or Antti Raanta.  As I have said in this space on more than one occasion: literally any NHL goalie can get really hot and play a stretch of 5-10 .950% games.  That is why they are in the NHL to begin with.  What makes an NHL goalie great is when he can play .920% for 60 games.  Lundqvist had that capability, Shesterkin is showing very distinct signs of having it.  The jury is still very much out on Georgiev.

Could he be a more capable backup to Shesterkin than the soon-to-be 38-year-old Lundqvist? Possibly. But, that isn’t the point.  The point is asset management, and given the analysis above, how is Georgiev standing in the way of a symbiotic future with an all-time great who can carry Allaire’s message forward and personally nurture the development of the best goaltending prospect the organization has had since…himself?

It makes no sense.  The club shouldn’t shoot themselves in the foot because they don’t want to de-value Georgiev at the trade deadline or the Draft.  Of course, you don’t telegraph your intentions, but if their thought process is anything other than trade Georgiev as soon as you can for as much as you can, then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Trading Trouba

Another fan fever dream run rampant is trading Jacob Trouba to clear room for a long-term deal for Tony DeAngelo.  There is no question that Trouba has had some bumps in the road adjusting to New York and the point totals aren’t where we would all like them to be. However, Trouba unquestionably has the talent and performed fairly well, overall, despite the lack of offensive production.

In this writer’s opinion, it doesn’t make sense to dump him for what would amount to cap relief for a guy who gives back a significant portion of is offense in his own zone.

Trading Strome

I know Strome has serious chemistry with Artemi Panarin.  I know he is on pace for 70 points this season.  I’m sorry, I don’t believe that he has actually become that guy.  He has questionable peripherals and an inflated shooting percentage.  GM’s are rubes.  Convince one of them that he is now living up to his draft pedigree and take everything you can get.  Otherwise, you are shelling out $5m+ for a guy who will be a 3C once Chytil takes the 2C mantle.

Trading Fast

Let me be clear.  I like Jesper Fast, I really do.  He’s been a good soldier and a solid role player, but I don’t find it that hard to let go of those guys when the team isn’t contending.  It was tough saying goodbye to Brendan Prust and Brian Boyle, because they were well-regarded role players at a time when their contributions were part of Stanley Cup aspirations.  With Fast, it’s just not   the same thing.  Get what you can get.

League Punishment

Not necessarily fully hockey related, but the other day, UEFA handed down punishment to the Manchester City Football Club for violation of their financial policies.  This came on the heels of MLB’s punishment of the Houston Astros (and pending Boston Red Sox) for their sign-stealing scandals from 2017-2018.  The MLB response has been ridiculed as a slap on the wrist with no meaningful impact.

More recently, Zach Kassian, a classic repeat offender was suspended only 6 games for kicking a player in the chest with his skate.  Try thinking of a more inherently dangerous behavior than that on an ice rink.   Six games.

Manchester City basically committed white collar crime in circumventing their financial rules and were suspended for 2 years from Champion’s League Competition and fined 30 million Euros.  Imagine if MLB banned Houston from the playoffs for 2 seasons?  You think they’d be stealing signs? The New York Times estimates that competitive participation in the Champion’s League will cost Man City 100 million Euros, per year of missed participation.

This just highlights the shill administrations that North American sports have.  The Commissioner’s offices are hired goons for the owners with no objective independence in their assessments of league business.  Whatever the best outcome for the owners, that’s the outcome.  Trash sports leagues we have here, folks.   This is a bigger discussion for another day, but I needed to get that out.

New TV deal/Conflict of Interest

Speaking of trash sports leagues, the NHL is finally moving to enter into a new TV deal after the 2021-2022 season, after the inevitable lockout, of course.  There are rumors that Fox, ESPN and other traditional sports carriers may be involved, but there are also suggestions that a higher-priced renewal of the 2011 Comcast/NBC agreement may be in the cards.

At first blush, it’s not really a big deal, sports’ leagues enter into different regional and national television and broadcast deals all the time.  This goes back to the shill discussion in the previous thought.   I’m sure it does wonderful things for the sport to have casual fans to have to search out the freaking NBC Sports channel or NHL network to find normal hockey coverage, and on the national games, to tune into NBC to hear the grating combination of tonal ear rape and verb salad that is Mike Emerick.  Let’s definitely renew that relationship instead of putting the product on the channels that other people, you know, actually watch when they want to see a sporting event.

So, what’s the problem? Oh, it might just be that Flyers owner Brian Roberts is the goddamn CEO and Chairman of Comcast/NBC.  While it’s possible that the NHL has a rigid vetting system and incorruptible ethical approach to these types of relationships, but let’s be honest.  At best, it’s shitty optics and at worst it’s openly flagrant corruption on Gary Bettman’s behalf to line the pockets of one of the owners at the expense of the sports reach and relevance in the hyper-competitive American sports market.  If the NHL (and every American sport, for that matter) doesn’t need a truly independent governing body, then I don’t know what the hell we are doing here.

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  • Please stop this non-sense of buying out Hank, that’s nuts. He will play out his contract, or may retire to become the face of the organization, ala Gilbert who is getting long of tooth, and probably will retire himself. If not, then he could be the next Benny down the road, how great would that be??????

    Trouba is going nowhere, period. All Jake needs is a decent partner, someone like Lindgren who is defensively responsibly, to let Jake do his thing!!!!

    Fast is a nice piece to have, but it won’t be the end of the world if we trade him for a pick. This also gives a kid a shot at a top 6 position, because DQ just can’t help himself by playing Swifty there. If he signs for a team friendly contract, well we sign him, but that’s after he is traded for something, anything to help this rebuild along.

    Strome, is going, where I don’t know, but he is history. Breadman can make anyone look good, so get something of value for him (Strome) while the getting is good. His replacement will be Chytle, along with Artie, and Kakko, now that’s a hell of a second line. We have players coming up, or in the system who can play 3C, or get a new guy from the free agent pool, problem solved!!!!!!

  • “…tonal ear rape and verb salad …” r/brandnewsentence (though I actually like Emerick, personally; it’s most of his supporting cast I hate).

    Is a contract with a low year 1 salary that includes bonuses, followed by some term with a more worthy salary possible in this CBA? Say, might Tony take 1 year at 2 mil+incentives followed by 4 at 6? Just for example, not saying he’s worth that or it’s a good contract, but as a way to circumventing this one year squeeze until Hank and Staal are freed?

  • I’m not sure that you’re not the tube, Justin. Again, stop writing articles from the heart regarding Hank and realize that all your writing is pure speculation and hyperbolic. You have no idea what his mindset is nor do you know Benoit will ride off into the sunset because he’s 60 as plenty of coaches work well past that age. Nor do you know that Hank wants to coach or anything else except this perfect scenario that you’ve conjured up in your mind.

    If you’re going to be comparing players then at least give Brandon Prust the pleasure of having his name spelled correctly as well.

    Lastly, I actually like Mike Emrick calling a game myself along with Olczyk but Millbury is a whole other story.

    • What does your first sentence even mean, Bryan? Kinda cuts the legs out from under your attack…and Justin’s right about Mike Emrick, whose shrieking voice and overdone vocabulary list are so irritating that his Devils homerism is almost less annoying.

      • If Emrick isn’t grating enough, we also have to listen to McGuire’s constant pandering to the Boston and Pittsburgh fans, and Millbury’s continual dissing of the Rangers. I thought he was going to choke a couple of games ago when he had to admit that Panarin is one of the top players in the league.

  • Trouba isn’t going to be traded and the fans who are wishing for that don’t know much.

    Hank isn’t going to be bought out. He is either going to play through the end of his contract or possibly retire a year early, but I doubt that.

    Fast is a good soldier, but the Rangers have other priorities that come before retaining him.

    Strome is not a must sign. He is retained only if his contract is affordable.

  • Why would a team pay a goalie 8.5 million a season when they have a younger goalie who is just as good earning far less.

    And Trouba is no better or worse today then when he play for the Jets. I know fans hyped him up as the best thing since Barry Beck, but Trouba is what he is. A reliable, stabilizing blue liner who has a decent shot. It’s not his fault the FO overpaid for him. This kind of overreaching to get the big name player is what the Ranger organization is famous for.

    Kreider and Fast are UFAs. They are asking for huge raises. The Rangers need to cut bait and move them at the trade deadline.

    • According to you though, Bloomer, that money should go to 10-year veteran Taylor Hall, he of the one playoff appearance and one completely reconstructed knee, so that pretty much eliminates you from having any sensible things to add here.

      • Hall is more productive then Kreider and is the same age. Yet Kreider is asking for Taylor Hall money. I am just pointing out the Ranger organization can get more bang for their buck. Paying huge salaries for players like Krieder, Fast and Trouba who are good players but don’t move the needle can be spent elsewhere.

        • But paying a huge salary to a 10-year NHL veteran who’s made the playoffs once in his career does make sense?

          You flap it all the time about Hank and his salary—the team that signs Hall is gonna get as burned as the Sharks did with Erik Karlsson. Your proposal here is utterly ridiculous. There’s no forward in the NHL who is more overrated than Taylor Hall.

        • Whichever GM signs Taylor Hall to a massive long term deal is a fool of a GM. Taylor Hall is the last thing we need for the long term viability of the rebuild. Kreider may not “produce” as many points as Hall, but I’ll take Kreider and his 7 @ $7M over Hall and his 7 @ whatever (but more than $7M).

  • Justin, you really should leave the word “rape” out of your posts, man—it’s a really creepy word to use in relation to any sort of analogy.

    With that said, love the article otherwise—and especially your take on how corporate-friendly and punishment-shy North American sports leagues are in comparison to Europe. Nobody should ever watch Major League Baseball again, but their fans are the biggest suckers in the US sports market, so it won’t matter.

  • Do not buy out contracts. Trouba is the big mean D man we have been screaming to have and some want him gone. He Plays against top lines. Lots of minutes and his partner doesn’t help. If anyone needs to go it is his partner.
    Can someone answer these scenarios? Kreider will be a UFA. Would it be smart to trade him for a top prospect, if they can? Couldn’t they resign him after the season? Throw in Smith with the deal.

  • Just a pet peeve, I’m sick of everything good Strome does being written off as a fluke of some sort. He has played well as a Ranger, with or without Panarin. There may be logic in trading in the overall scheme of the rebuild and the salary cap, but he’s done everything the rangers have asked if him so far, and at a fair price.

  • Two counter points as enough has been written about Hank and Jake.

    “to tune into NBC to hear the grating combination of tonal ear rape and verb salad that is Mike Emerick”. Sorry. I like Doc a lot and actually think Eddie and Mad Mike are credible.

    With respect to Brian Roberts….read this and understand: I am no fan of CONcast and that crook. But last time I looked…there are 30 other owners who frankly are going to want one thing: THE MOST THEY CAN MAKE FROM A TV DEAL. To suggest that Bettman/CONcast will have some inside deal that is not the best deal is fallacy.

  • IMO there’s only one question regarding Kreider … is he relenting on his term request? I firmly believe the Rangers FO will not go 7 years. And I also believe that discussions between Gorton and Keator have not gotten past this point. So who blinks first?

  • Justin, you (and many others) are missing the point on a Lundqvist buyout. If the Rangers buy out Lundqvist and he subsequently signs a $1.5M one year contract with Toronto, he gets just as much money as he would have gotten otherwise. He gets to maybe be the starting goaltender for a contender instead of Shesterkin’s backup – rather important for a highly competitive guy. And this is a contract that Toronto can afford.

    Toronto is just an example. There are numerous teams that would never trade for Hank because the cap hit is intolerable even with half retained salary.

    I agree with your numbers. Buying out Hank is not a prudent way to handle the Ranger cap woes. I would not buy out Hank unless that was his second choice (first choice – Ranger starter next year should be ruled out). Larry Brooks thinks Hank wants a buy out. So do I.

    For the same reason that you adamantly oppose buying him out, I would oppose keeping him against his wishes.

    Of course, none of us knows for certain what Hank is thinking — maybe not even Hank.

  • What about Lundqvist to Colorado. Grubauer out indefinitely? Cup Contender ion need of a starting goalie?

  • I don’t think Brian Roberts interest in the Flyers affects the TV deal. The NHL will take the most money, period. Also the NHL rights aren’t all that good (declining ratings, old demo, tribal fans vs national interest) and is likely not even profitable for NBC, so there isn’t really a “lining the pockets” situation.

  • Let Lundqvist play out his contract after everything he did for the Rangers on & off the ice should speak for itself!!!!

  • If we could trade Hank, Marc and Brendan Smith I think the rest of your dribble could be ignored, Hank isn’t happy anymore like you said about brainless GM’s maybe someone gets the thought they need veteran defensive help and want Marc and Smith has done us a big favor by playing well weather on offense or defense

  • I wouldn’t trade Fast. I know a lot of fans like him for his gritty style of play. I like him for his righty stick that you (can’t have too many of and everyone needs) need and he can play up and down in the lineup. A guy like that is just as valuable to a winning team as the top point scorers.
    There’s going to be injuries on any team so you’re going to need to have a “next man up” mentality. Fast isn’t a centerman but he can plug right into the top line and the remaining 2 players don’t lose a step because of Fast’ skating ability and defensive play. What you lose with Fast in terms of Pure skill, you gain back in transition from D-zone to O-zone. Fast is pretty savvy at creating a turnover in his own end.

    I would try to strike on Strome while the iron is glowing hot. He has never had numbers like this. He’s obviously gaining from playing with the Bread Man. If we could get a par of 2nd round picks for Strome or another prospect, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I like him (as a NYR) but he’s no top 6 player on a winning team.

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