As the Rangers stay the course with their three headed goalie monster, there is more and more chatter about what the Rangers are going to do to alleviate the issue. All the focus is on Henrik Lundqvist, the face of the franchise, and his $8.5 million contract that expires at the end of next season. There’s good reason there, even if I disagree.
Lundqvist’s legacy and current contract aside for a moment, it’s clear the three-man rotation is more of a two-man rotation. Lundqvist has started four games in two months, with one brief appearance in relief sprinkled in. What I find to be interesting is that despite the lack of playing time, Hank has dressed as the backup for every single game. He has not once been the healthy scratch.
What We’ve Been Told
The Rangers are actively shopping Lundqvist and plan on buying him out this summer if they can’t get him to waive his no-move clause. This is going to be an ugly end to Lundqvist’s career as a Ranger, and he will chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere, possibly in Colorado.
This would make sense if Lundqvist wasn’t Lundqvist and didn’t have the legacy the guy has in New York. He has 100% earned that final year at $5.5 million ($8.5 million cap hit). The guy is still capable, and I think we all knew that the contract in the final two years would be rough. Welcome to those final two years.
No matter the way they go about it, there is no amicable end to this relationship if it ends before the contract is up, and that’s what we are being told will happen.
What We Are Missing
Hank hasn’t been a scratch. He’s very clearly the backup goalie for the Igor Shesterkin/Alex Georgiev tandem. Whichever kid is hotter starts. The Rangers are getting very good, very long looks at their young goalies. It’s clear Shesterkin has the lead in the race, but Georgiev has made things interesting.
What we are missing is that this may not be the Rangers “forcing Henrik Lundqvist out the door.” This is the Rangers seeing what they have and making the best decision they possibly can for the future of the team. Lundqvist’s contract, while expensive, isn’t a concern in the grand scheme of things for next season.
The trade market for a goalie right now, especially an expensive 38 year old goalie, isn’t going to be pretty. There would be significantly more value for one of the younger goalies at the draft. This is important, because at some point the Rangers are going to need to make a choice.
Educated Guess Conclusion
Perhaps I suffer from extreme optimism. However I think the Rangers are well aware of their situation with Georgiev and Shesterkin. They are going to run those two out there for the rest of the year, make a decision on which goalie they want to keep, and then trade the other at the draft. This way they make an educated decision on their netminder of the future.
Meanwhile Hank will slide into a backup goalie role, the role he currently has. Yes he will be the most expensive backup goalie in NHL history, but as previously mentioned, he’s earned that right to go out on his own terms. After all, the Rangers don’t want to be compared to the Giants and how they handled Eli Manning. They’d rather be compared to the Yankees and how they handled Derek Jeter.
Or maybe I just have extra thick rose colored glasses on.