Henrik Lundqvist made his first start in basically a month on Sunday, so what should the New York Rangers do with their long-time goaltender?
The New York Rangers had their five-game winning streak end with a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last Friday night, and they lost the back end of the home-and-home 5-3 on Sunday. Sunday’s game was also Henrik Lundqvist’s first start between the pipes since Feb. 3, as he allowed five goals on 26 shots in his first action of any sort since Feb. 11.
The Rangers have still won seven of their last 10 games, and nine of their last 12. Entering Monday they are just four points back of Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the East, with two games in hand on the Blue Jackets.
Between Lundqvist’s last two starts, the first of which he was pulled from against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 3, the Rangers went 10-3. He is now 10-12-3 on the season, with a 3.19 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
Shesterkin has been excellent, with a 9-1 record, a 2.23 GAA and a .940 save percentage. But he missed a few games with an ankle injury, and he’s currently out after suffering a rib injury in a car accident late last month.
Georgiev was the subject of some trade rumors leading up to the deadline, but the Rangers don’t appear to be at all motivated to move him, even looking toward the offseason.
Shesterkin and Georgiev are each 24-years-old. So neither of them is likely going anywhere anytime soon, even with Georgiev lined up for a significant raise as a restricted free agent this summer. So that leaves one option to unclog a goaltender logjam.
How do you solve a problem like Henrik Lundqvist?
Coincidentally, Lundqvist turned 38 on Monday. His days as an annual All-Star and Vezina Trophy contender are also clearly behind him.
Lundqvist has one year left on his contract after this one, with an $8.5 million cap hit. If the Rangers buy him out during the offseason, they would clear $3 million in what is in line to be much-needed cap space. A $1.5 cap hit would also push to 2021-22 if Lundqvist were bought out.
The Rangers could look to trade Lundqvist this summer, surely to a more surefire Stanley Cup contender. They’d surely have to retain some money in a deal though if only to bolster their return. It’s also worth noting Lundqvist has been pretty consistent in his desire to only play for the Rangers. So rather than be traded or set free by a buyout, retirement stands as an option.
The recent extended layoff was not the first for Lundqvist this season. He also did not play at all between Jan. 11 and Feb. 1, as Shesterkin was called up. So head coach David Quinn, to his credit, has already narrowed to a two-man goalie rotation when everyone is healthy and Lundqvist is the odd-man out.
If New York sticks around in the playoff race right to the end of the regular season, it will be hard to give Lundqvist a fitting send-off with a start at Madison Square Garden. But sentimentality aside, King Henrik’s last weeks in a Rangers’ uniform seem to be upon us.
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