Regarding the Rangers, whose deadline fate will be determined entirely by cap considerations and the value of trade proposals but not at all by the results of the three games at Chicago, at Carolina and at the Garden against the Sharks leading up to the Feb. 24 deadline.
The Rangers surely did not ask Henrik Lundqvist’s permission to essentially airbrush him out of the 2019-20 team picture, so why on earth would upper management need The King’s consent in June to buy out the final year of his contract?
Lundqvist could see this coming, I could see this coming, just about everyone could see this coming but no one, but no one, could see it coming exactly like this, with the hierarchy essentially telling the future Hall of Famer that he’s no longer good enough to play for the team.
For yes, while this dramatic midseason move to an Igor Shesterkin-Alexandar Georgiev partnership is about next year and the ones immediately thereafter, it has also become about this year. The Rangers believe that these two goaltenders give the team its best chance of winning on any given night. It is difficult to argue with that proposition, Shesterkin and Georgiev having compiled a combined 10-4 mark with a .930 save-pct. and 2.34 GAA since the former’s Jan. 7 debut.
Going with Georgiev back-to-back in Minnesota on Thursday and in Columbus on Friday when Shesterkin was down with an ankle injury should tell you that much, even as I have no idea what coach David Quinn, goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, general manager Jeff Gorton and team president John Davidson are telling Lundqvist on an ongoing basis.
It almost doesn’t matter what they are saying, when, to borrow a line from Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange”, actions speak louder than. Management obviously does not believe that a Shesterkin-Lundqvist tandem going forward is optimum, or else they’d have given it a try. They’d be preparing for next year while dangling Georgiev to the highest bidder. The hierarchy has not done that. Instead, it has made Lundqvist the third option in a two-goaltender rotation.
Somehow, I do not perceive that a June buyout would create a clean break between the franchise and the goaltender and allow Lundqvist to chart his own course to be more disrespectful than this, and I am not at all suggesting this is the organization’s intent. Management is trying to respect the Swede’s feelings but after all the flowery words, respect is measured by ice time.
Getting from here to next season seems easy in comparison to getting from here to the end of this season. I mentioned this two weeks ago, but is Lundqvist actually going to practice every day while acting as the backup every game? Will he serve as a No. 3 goaltender for the next five weeks, with the idea of having him start the last couple of games at the Garden as a send-off? Would he be good with that?
Would that connote respect or disrespect?
It seems inconceivable that a Cup contender would inquire now about Lundqvist, who has started two games since Jan. 11 and whose confidence must be at a lifelong low ebb. Of course it is. This must be excruciating for him. A trade does not seem likely. A Cup contender hiring him as the No. 1 next year does not seem likely, either.
Could the dynamic change if a team becomes willing to trade, say, a sure-shot top-six or a top-end first-rounder in exchange for Georgiev? Possibly, but probably not. The Rangers have their goaltending tandem in place for next year, if not the next two or three. Lundqvist is not a part of it.
A buyout of Lundqvist would save $3 million under the cap but you have to figure $2 million of that would go to Georgiev, who is a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Under this scenario, the Rangers would be in for $8.45 million for goaltenders (Lundqvist, $5.5 million; Georgiev, $2 million; Shesterkin, $925,000). That would represent a saving of $975,000 on the position as opposed to a Lundqvist ($8.5 million)-Shesterkin partnership. A buyout would also add $1.5 million in dead space in 2021-22.
Unless blown away, the Rangers should be in no rush to trade Tony DeAngelo by the deadline. More teams will be interested in the pending restricted free-agent defenseman in June than over the next week.
And yes, we’re talking about a tiny sample size and yes, Adam Fox made that hellacious 60-foot backhand saucer to Mika Zibanejad to trigger the sequence where Chris Kreider scored the late winning goal in Columbus, but the power play was sure much less dynamic with Fox on the point rather than the injured DeAngelo the last two games.
If Kreider is traded, then cap concerns fade, if not evaporate, in relation to signing DeAngelo to a new deal this summer.