Henrik Lundqvist has done it all for the New York Rangers, but his time on Broadway, unfortunately, needs to come to an end.
Henrik Lundqvist is known as The King.
He is, undoubtedly, the most important player to lace up for the New York Rangers in the last decade, carrying poorly-shaped defenses to the playoffs and some of the best memories Ranger fans have seen since 1994.
Despite all of the success, Lundqvist and the Rangers now find themselves at a crossroads brought on by the three-goalie situation, and it’s looking more and more like the veteran needs to be the odd man out.
It’s hard to fathom that it’s come to this point, but it is also hard to ignore the facts presented over the last week with this three-goalie platoon. Simply put, it’s best for the Rangers moving forward to explore moving the 37-year-old netminder and convince him to waive the no-move clause he earned.
The Kids Have To Play
If anything is evident by the way head coach David Quinn is handing time out at the early stages of this rotation, it’s that he’ll go with the hot hand. The evidence is right there with Alexandar Georgiev seeing back-to-back starts vs. the rival Islanders.
With Georgiev going two in a row, rookie sensation Igor Shesterkin has not appeared in a game since Jan. 9. Lundqvist, on the other hand, has played in just two of the Blueshirts’ seven games to start 2020. Assuming one of Shesterkin or Georgiev play Sunday, and the other on Tuesday, that would mean Lundqvist will have played in just three of the last 10 games.
It does not look like the Rangers plan on sending Shesterkin to Hartford to see some game action when he doesn’t play, considering Hartford will have played five games since his last appearance prior to Sunday. Now while one can understand the reasoning of having the rookie learn from one of the best goalie coaches in Benoit Allaire, goalies tend to perform better one they get in a rhythm and one can only imagine how Shesterkin’s rhythm has been thrown off.
New York also finds itself in an interesting position because they want to show off Georgiev for a potential trade partner, should it get to that point. While he’s played in plenty of games over the last two years, it doesn’t hurt to keep showcasing him leaving Lundqvist on the outside looking in.
New York Could Benefit From The Cap Flexibility
Make no mistake, Lundqvist deserves every penny of the $8.5 million the Rangers are paying him this year and next, along with the no-move clause they gave him.
While there would without a doubt be some salary retention in a deal for Lundqvist, paying half of his salary still serves as a benefit for the Blueshirts. They have several key players in Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux all due for pay raises this summer and not much cap room to work with.
Trading some of Lundqvist’s salary won’t allow for them to sign all five players, but what it does is give them a little more flexibility with their cap situation saving some money in the long run with two younger goalies starting instead of a future Hall of Famer in between the pipes.
There still lies the question of would Lundqvist be willing to move his no-move clause. That’s something only he and Rangers management know the answer to, but dressing as the backup in five of the last seven games can’t be sitting well him. Perhaps it’s what the team needs to even get him thinking of moving that no-move clause.
The Kids Can Play
It would be premature to discuss moving on from a franchise player in the final year and a half of his contract unless the team knows they can replace him with a player who can do a respectable job.
The Yankees faced that issue with Derek Jeter’s retirement with Didi Gregorius stepping in gracefully and kind of made everyone “forget” Jeter. Well, the Rangers are lucky to have great depth in their system in between the pipes and can find themselves in the same situation the Yankees did.
Georgiev is in the top-30 in the NHL with a respectable .913 save percentage, to go along with his .823 high danger save percentage. His last two starts vs. the Islanders show what the 24-year-old is capable of along with some of his outings we saw a year ago. This is not a Cam Talbot or Antti Raanta situation where they would be moving a player in his late 20s. Georgiev is just 23-years-old and is already showing he’s capable of starting, it would be premature to move on from the kid.
You still can't score on Georgie even when you try to run him over! #NYR #LGR pic.twitter.com/T0QeYCGART
— Rangers on MSG (@RangersMSGN) January 17, 2020
For Shesterkin, while he allowed three goals in each of his first two starts, he also showed signs of why he’s viewed as the Rangers’ top goaltending prospect. He’s dominated every level he’s played in and could benefit from a two goalie rotation instead of the three goalie rotation the Rangers are deploying at the moment.
In the two games Lundqvist has appeared in, he’s yet to look himself and it’s a direct result of this new role he finds himself in. The eye test has him looking rusty and slower in goal, evident by the nine goals he’s allowed in those two starts. If Georgiev and Shesterkin continue to play well after more rest and Lundqvist continues to struggle, the Rangers might find themselves falling out of the race for the Wild Card where they are currently just six points out.
There is no denying the importance Henrik Lundqvist has played for the New York Rangers. He is without question the greatest goaltender this franchise has ever seen and will see his no. 30 hanging in the rafters of Madison Square Garden down the road.
Now the Rangers have hit a point in the rebuild that was only inevitable and they cannot let the growth and development of their two young goaltenders hinder because they are not seeing the appropriate amount of playing time.
So if New York refuses to use Hartford as a vehicle to get Shesterkin playing time, they must start looking at potential deals involving Lundqvist, not Georgiev.
The time has come for Hank to pass on his throne.