Thoughts on the Igor Shesterkin contract

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Yesterday the Rangers locked up their last RFA, inking goalie Igor Shesterkin to a four year contract extension. This had been rumored for about a week, as Shesterkin did not elect to go to arbitration. The AAV is $5.66 million, a bit below the rumored $6 million cap hit. This was as good a deal as you can get for Shesterkin, which is a sigh of relief given some of the other contracts handed out by Chris Drury this offseason. As per usual, I have some thoughts.

1. This is a very good deal for both the Rangers and Shesterkin. The cap hit is manageable, the term is fine, if a little shorter than I would have liked, and it gives the Rangers some flexibility to take on a big name as they prepare to make their run. The contract takes Shesterkin to his age 28-29 season, which is again a good thing, as the Rangers aren’t necessarily risking an aging curve or a sudden drop off due to age. The dollar amount may seem high for a guy with 47 NHL games, but remember he dominated the KHL for 95 games. That does matter here.

2. The concern that many have is term, as they would have preferred locking in Shesterin to an eight year deal with a bigger cap hit. While I certainly would have preferred getting in the additional four years now, it wasn’t necessarily realistic. For all we know, Drury wanted to do that too. However for Shesterkin, why would he do that? An eight year deal would take him to age 33, where he is less likely to get an even bigger contract in free agency. By going four years, Shesterkin is betting on himself to continue his top-ten (five?) goalie in the league performance and enhancing it with consistency. He is going to hit free agency at 29 years old and, if all goes well, should get a big pay day. We may have wanted more term, but why would Shesterkin have done that?

3. Regarding injuries, this came up a few times. I don’t understand it though. He had a minor groin injury in the bubble, which given the circumstances and lack of prep for all, soft tissue injuries aren’t overly surprising. He had the bigger groin issue this past season, which again there was minimal prep time for the season. In 2020 he got into a car accident, so that is a freak thing. The 2021 groin injury is the one that you’d want to monitor, but I don’t consider it a big deal. The “injury prone” moniker is wildly overblown.

4. Make no mistake, Shesterkin is a solid goalie who should only benefit from a team that is going to markedly improve on the blue line and with overall team defense.

Shesterkin, at even strength, played well above the team defense last season. All he has to do is tread water while the team improves and he will be worth the contract. In theory, as the team gets better, Shesterkin’s numbers will improve as well. We should also expect a sharp increase in his shorthanded performance as more structure is provided to that unit. We are really spoiled, going from Henrik Lundqvist to Shesterkin in net.

5. There is one big risk with the contract, and that is what Shesterkin will get when the contract expires. It will likely put him in line for that 8 year, $10 million extension. A contract like that, which will take him to age-37, is a major risk. Just like with Mika Zibanejad, the concern is the aging curve and potential for extreme drop off in performance. That is likely another contract the Rangers may want to avoid. However context will be needed for it. It will be very similar to the Lundqvist situation, where the Rangers had an expensive, albeit it well worth it, goalie for most of that contract. What are the odds Shesterkin follows that track?

6. Conversely, an argument for that kind of contract can be defended based on Shesterkin’s work load. Shesterkin has just 167 pro games since 2016-2017 (five seasons). There’s not much wear and tear on him yet. There’s an outside possibility that this plays a role into his ability to keep up his performance later into his career. That all depends on the next four years as the expected starter. Will he be run into the ground and play 70 games? Or will he get 60 games with a viable backup taking 25% of the workload? That will also play a role.

7. All in all, there’s very little concern with the Shesterkin contract. It’s great value, decent term, and sets up the Rangers well for the next four seasons.