Igor Shesterkin

What is Henrik Lundqvist’s future with Rangers?

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There has been a changing of the guard for the New York Rangers.

After being the team’s starting goalie and the backbone of the entire franchise for 15 years, Henrik Lundqvist‘s time as their starting goalie appears to be over.

At least for now.

For the past month-and-a-half the Rangers have been using a three goalie rotation of Lundqvist, Alexander Georgiev, and rookie Igor Shesterkin that had mostly relegated the former to the bench. On Thursday, coach David Quinn announced Shesterkin as the team’s No. 1 goalie for the time being and that “keeping people sharp” was no longer a priority for the team.

“I think when you get three goalies and you were in the situation we were in, you’re a little bit sensitive to everybody,” Quinn said, via the New York Post. “You want to give everybody an opportunity and see how this thing unfolds. I thought everybody had an ample opportunity and everybody had a chance to state their case. I just felt that Igor made the most impact and was in a position to ride him for a little while.”

By making that announcement Quinn simply confirmed what had already been obvious: the Rangers are looking toward the future in goal.

Since Shesterkin’s recall from the AHL in early January, Lundqvist has started just three games for the Rangers (fewest among the three goalies on the team) with the prized rookie getting the bulk of the playing time.

Shesterkin has a .941 save percentage in his first seven appearances during that stretch.

There had been speculation in the first half of the season that the Rangers might trade Georgiev, but a rebuilding team out of playoff contention dealing away a 23-year-old goalie doesn’t make much sense unless you are getting a massive haul in return. Given what the trade market for young goalies usually looks like, that was always going to be unlikely.

With him and Shesterkin in the mix, a franchise legend is left sitting on the bench.

So what happens next for Lundqvist?

The most intriguing option is a potential trade, either before the Feb. 24 trade deadline or in the offseason.

Lundqvist holds all of the cards in such a discussion and can dictate where — and if — he gets traded. At 37 he is not the player he was in his prime when he was one of the league’s elite goalies, but he has still performed at a better than league-average level the past two seasons while playing behind what has been at times a porous defense. A contender in need of a goalie could find a use for him, while also giving Lundqvist an opportunity to complete his resume with the final remaining honor he needs — a Stanley Cup.

Lundqvist loves being a Ranger and has always had a desire to play his entire career with the team, but he did open the door for a possible move this past spring when he admitted to a Swedish publication that it’s possible he could end up playing for another team.

As harsh as it is to say, the Rangers aren’t in a position where they can put loyalty over the good of the team. While neither Shesterkin or Georgiev is a proven commodity at this point, it stands to reason that one of them — or perhaps both — will be the focal point of the next Rangers team that competes for a Stanley Cup.

While it’s certainly possible that Lundqvist could return next season and wrestle playing time away from the two young goalies and regain his starting job (maybe one or both falters? Maybe Lundqvist still has one more big year left?), that seems to be unlikely given the current direction.

It could also create a situation where instead of a trade, the Rangers and Lundqvist agree to a buyout of the final year of his contract (as suggested by the Post’s Larry Brooks about a week ago), making a clean break and allowing Lundqvist to become a free agent.

The other option: Lundqvist decides this is it, rides out the remainder of the season as a third-string goalie that gets an occasional start here and there and simply retires. But that is not exactly the way you want to see the best goalie of his era go out.

It’s going to be interesting to see what path this all takes, but either way it is pretty clear that barring injury to one of the young goalies we are probably not going to see many more appearances for Lundqvist in a Rangers sweater.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Shesterkin shining on Broadway; Athanasiou, Wings upset Bruins

Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers covers the puck against the Los Angeles Kings
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Three Stars

1) Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

The Blueshirts have been very fortunate to have Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes since 2005 and the goaltender of the future appears to be arriving on Broadway sooner than expected. Shesterkin made 42 saves to help lead the Rangers to a 4-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden Sunday. The young Russian netminder has improved to 5-1-0 in six starts this season and continues to push for more playing time. While Lundqvist is unlikely to be moved at the trade deadline, Shesterkin’s consistent play has allowed Jeff Gorton to consider moving Alexandar Georgiev in the next few weeks. A crowded crease creates playing time concerns for all parties involved, but for the rebuilding Rangers, it’s a good problem to have for the time being.

2) Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit Red Wings

Everyone knew wins would be tough to come by for the Red Wings this season, but the plan was to have a few pieces continue their development. Athanasiou was expected to be one of those players after scoring 30 goals last season. Sunday, he scored his seventh and eighth of the season in Detroit’s surprising 3-1 victory against the Boston Bruins. The 25-year-old broke a 1-1 tie with a short-side snipe midway through the third period. He later added an empty-net goal to seal the victory for the Red Wings.

3) Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

The Blackhawks took an early two-goal lead, but the Jets stormed back in their third consecutive victory. Winnipeg scored five unanswered and moved into sole possession of the first wild card in the West with a 5-2 win against Chicago. Connor scored twice and added an assist, stretching his individual point streak to three games. The speedy winger benefitted from a terrific pass from Andrew Copp to cut Chicago’s two-goal advantage in half. Connor is two goals shy of reaching the 30-goal mark for the third consecutive season.

[NHL ON NBCSN: Ovechkin’s chase for 700th goal continues Monday]

Highlights of the Night

Copp put the right amount of sauce on this pass to set up Connor for a shorthanded goal.

Kaapo Kakko ended a 13-game goal drought after Filip Chytil delivered a beautiful backhanded pass from the corner.

Rickard Rakell slid a puck through the legs of Jack Eichel to set up Ryan Getzlaf midway through the first period.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Detroit Red Wings 3, Boston Bruins

Anaheim Ducks 3, Buffalo Sabres 2

New York Rangers 4, Los Angeles Kings 1

Winnipeg Jets 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2

Colorado Avalanche 3, Minnesota Wild 2

Ovechkin’s quest for 700:


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Kreider improves trade value; McAvoy pushes Bruins past Blackhawks in OT

Mika Zibanejad #93 and Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

The power forward tallied a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 5-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won a faceoff shortly before Mika Zibanejad wired a wrist shot past Michael Hutchinson late in the first period. Then, just six seconds later, Kreider held off Leafs defenseman Justin Holl and converted on a breakaway. The winger is one of the top players available at the NHL trade deadline and performances like this are only driving up the cost. For Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton, it was a sign of relief to see Kreider rebound in a strong way after missing the previous game with an upper-body injury.

2) Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

It’s a little late to get your first goal of the season but McAvoy was rewarded Wednesday. The steady defenseman charged up ice and raced to the net during the overtime session before tapping in a perfectly-placed pass from Jake DeBrusk to propel the Bruins to a 2-1 overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Long Island native beat Jonathan Toews in a foot race to the left of Jaroslav Halak, then skated the length of the ice to complete the play. Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy got caught in a traffic jam at the blueline and was unable to keep pace with McAvoy.

3) Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

It is hard to imagine that David Pastrnak has fallen to third on the NHL goals list this season, but Matthews’ consistent play has helped him climb into second place, for the time being. Matthews scored twice in the Leafs’ loss but is one tally short of reaching the 40-goal mark for the second time in his NHL career. The alternate captain netted a neat backhand and hammered a one-timer when John Tavares delivered a precise cross-ice pass. Toronto has been better since Sheldon Keefe took over behind the bench, but the Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up real quick and the Maple Leafs cannot afford to miss out on points against below average teams.

Highlights of the Night

Mika Zibanejad and Kreider scored within six seconds of each other to give the Rangers a two-goal advantage near the end of the first period.

David Krejci thought he had an easy goal until Robin Lehner made a ridiculous diving save.

Stat of the Night

Injury News

  • Adam Boqvist went to the locker room midway through the second period after Krejci delivered a nasty check from behind. Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton mentioned he doesn’t think the injury is “anything super serious.”

Scores

New York Rangers 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 3

Boston Bruins 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1 (OT)


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Can Rangers make the right moves with three goalies?

Rangers three goalies Lundqvist Georgiev Shesterkin
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The New York Rangers face a problem most NHL teams would love to have: they have “too many” competent goalies. For the time being, the Rangers must manage a delicate balancing act between Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev, and Igor Shesterkin.

Actually, the balancing act is more complicated than that. That’s saying something, too, because it isn’t always easy to juggle three goalies who deserve reps (both in practices and games).

The Rangers also face challenges in managing fan expectations, their aspirations to compete soon (vs. the likelihood that this isn’t a playoff year), and the trade deadline.

Having too much beats suffering without enough, but it’s a problem nonetheless. Let’s consider the situation by looking at all three goalies.

Henrik Lundqvist

Few goalies would dare to dream of enjoying the run Lundqvist went on from 2009-10 to 2015-16, where his save percentage never dipped below .920. Even before that stretch, Lundqvist enjoyed some strong seasons. His Hall of Fame entry is a matter of when, not if.

And while Lundqvist has looked human — uncannily handsome, but human — during the past few seasons, there’s evidence that he’s still pretty effective. When you take the Rangers’ shabby defense into account, Lundqvist often shines like dandruff-free, well-conditioned hair. Take, for instance, his solid work in 2019-20 by standards such as this chart from Charting Hockey:

 

That’s pretty impressive, especially for a 37-year-old.

Of course, that’s the rub: Lundqvist is 37. He’s expensive at an AAV of $8.5 million through 2020-21.

If we were all robots, we’d make the cold, calculated call to trade Lundqvist. We’re not robots (eyes you suspiciously), however, so the Rangers have to consider the politics of making such a trade. Frankly, it’s tough to imagine that happening, unless Lundqvist asked for a trade.

Context and marketing point to Georgiev or Shesterkin being the odd goalie out, even if team-building logic would punt “King Henrik.”

Georgiev seems like the easiest omission of the Rangers’ three goalies

Plenty of factors point to Georgiev being the odd goalie out:

  • While Lundqvist and Shesterkin are under contract through 2020-21, Georgiev is a pending RFA.
  • Georgiev (23) isn’t the lone youngster, as Shesterkin is 24.
  • Georgiev doesn’t have the NHL resume of Lundqvist, nor does he seem to boast the fascinating potential of Shesterkin.

That said, Georgiev is more battle-tested (.913 save percentage in 66 NHL games) than Shesterkin (.929, but in just three so far).

Things also get more complicated if the Rangers value Georgiev more than the market. The Athletic’s James Mirtle notes (sub required) that the Rangers reportedly want a young player who can contribute immediately — rather than a pick or prospect — for Georgiev.

Such an asking price may explain why Elliotte Friedman wondered if the Rangers might wait until the offseason to address this three-headed goalie monster, rather than a seemingly more logical situation of trading Georgiev to a team that needs a backup.

Personally, I’d be more eager to move Georgiev for something at the trade deadline, but we’ll see. With Chris Kreider and other decisions to make, the Rangers figure to be busy.

Shesterkin boasts most fascinating, mysterious potential of Rangers’ three goalies

This situation presents headaches, but the Rangers seem to realize that Shesterkin has a strong chance to be worth it.

Now, the usual caveats apply. Goalies are explosively unpredictable, and as currently constituted, the Rangers’ porous defense only ratchets up that volatility. Shesterkin could very well wilt where Lundqvist and Georgiev kept at it.

That said … goodness, Shesterkin’s numbers look promising.

Along with three mostly strong NHL appearances, Shesterkin managed an impressive .934 save percentage in 25 AHL games this season. Shesterkin’s KHL save percentage ranged from .933 to .953 from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

The body of work isn’t that large, but a goalie can only stop the pucks they face, and Shesterkin’s thrived in every stop so far.

***

The Rangers deserve credit for a strong rebuild, but the toughest tests lie ahead. It’s more difficult to go from average to good (and especially good to great) than to step up from moribund. Getting this goalie part right is important, even if it could get a little messy.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rangers’ DeAngelo has one of the most productive games ever for a defenseman

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There are only a handful of defensemen in NHL history that have had the kind of game that Tony DeAngelo had for the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

He was one of the many stars in their 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils thanks to a rather historic performance.

His night: Three goals (his first career hat trick), two assists, seven shots on goal, and he finished as a plus-3.

Just for some perspective on that sort of effort, the only defenders to ever finish a game with three goals, five points, and seven shots on goal in a single game are Bobby Orr (who did it three different times), Guy Lapointe, Denis Potvin, Reed Larson, Paul Coffey, and Rob Blake.

Here is the complete list, via NHL.com database.

DeAngelo is the first defenseman to have such a game since Blake during the 2000-01 season. He is just the second since the 1985-86 season. He is also one of only five on that list to also finish the game as a plus-3 or better.

Pretty dominant night overall.

Here are the highlights.

DeAngelo is in the middle of a breakout season for the Rangers and is now up to 11 goals and 36 points for the season. Both of those numbers are already new career highs. He has hit those marks in only 43 games.

Along with DeAngelo, it was another huge night for a couple of other Rangers. Artemi Panarin finished with three points for the second consecutive game, while rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin made his second consecutive start and stopped 47 out of 50 shots.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.