NHL Rumor Mill – August 6, 2020
The latest Rangers’ speculation involving Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Strome, Alexandar Georgiev, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: With the Rangers’ season over, Larry Brooks believes Henrik Lundqvist’s long goodbye with the Blueshirts is over. He wonders how the goaltender and the club will part ways after 15 seasons as it transitions toward a tandem of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
Lundqvist has a year left on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $8.5 million. Brooks praised his handling of this situation, but he doesn’t know if the former Vezina Trophy winner will accept being a backup with the Rangers or another club.
The Rangers must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents like Georgiev, Ryan Strome, and Tony DeAngelo. Brooks doesn’t see a legitimate Stanley Cup contender pursuing Lundqvist at this stage in his career, or another club taking him on even if the Rangers absorbed half of his cap hit. The other option is buying out his contract once the playoffs are over. Retirement is also a possibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A difficult decision faces Lundqvist and the Rangers. I agree with Brooks’ take regarding his trade value. The 38-year-old netminder has enjoyed a stellar career but he’s no longer the type of starting goaltender a contender would covet. Even if the Rangers absorbed half his cap hit, it would make him an expensive backup.
As Brooks observed, if Lundqvist retires his $8.5 million cap hit won’t count against the Rangers’ cap payroll for next season, but he’d forfeit the $5.5 million he’s owed in actual salary. If they can’t trade him to another club, a buyout would create $3 million in savings but still leave some dead cap space.
Brooks indicates the Rangers received no significant offers for Georgiev before the February trade deadline, nor did management especially dangle him in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Georgiev’s name surfaced a lot in this year’s rumor mill, though most of it was pundits dreaming up potential destinations for him. Barring a surprising swerve where the Rangers keep Lundqvist, Georgiev appears destined to be Shesterkin’s backup next season.
Brooks examined other possible off-season moves for the Rangers. Popular check-line winger Jesper Fast is expected to depart via free agency. They must decide whether to sign Ryan Strome to a one-year contract that might be worth $5 million. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Strome didn’t improve his chances for a long-term deal or his trade value with a dismal performance against the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strome had a couple of assists against the Hurricanes but his overall performance was disappointing. Maybe they consider trading him if they anticipate a difficult contract negotiation. Then again, perhaps the flat cap works in their favor if comparable players on other clubs start accepting less money on one-year deals.
The Rangers now have a shot at winning the upcoming second draft lottery and the right to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere. Brooks, however, suggests the Rangers could instead consider selecting big Sudbury Wolves center Quinton Byfield. He points to a looming top-six opening at center over the next couple of years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks could be talking about Strome if the Rangers ink him to a one-year deal in the off-season. However, I suspect he’s referring to Mika Zibanejad, who becomes eligible for UFA status in 2022 and could seek a pay raise that proves too hefty for the Rangers to carry.
Landing Byfield might be a more sensible pick if the Rangers win the draft lottery. They already have Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider at the left wing, with both guys carrying expensive contracts and full no-movement clauses.
Playing Lafreniere on the third line isn’t a good option, and shifting him to the right side takes him out of his comfort zone. They could move Panarin or Kreider to the right side but could face the same problem.
If the Rangers win the first-overall pick, maybe they trade down with another club to ensure they get Byfield and something else.
What say you, Rangers fans? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.