FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - By the start of the NHL Draft on Friday evening, the overwhelming odds are that the Rangers will be hunting for an experienced goaltender to back up Henrik Lundqvist.
The front office on Thursday fielded trade offers from a handful of clubs for Cam Talbot, who was 16-4-3 while Henrik Lundqvist recovered from a vascular injury to his neck after being struck by a shot on Jan. 31. Talbot's play helped the Rangers win the Presidents' Trophy and raised the 27-year-old's stock in the eyes of teams looking for a No. 1 netminder.
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That stock will never be higher: He is under contract for $1.45 million next season and then can become an unrestricted free agent, which appeals to teams such as the Oilers, Sharks, Sabres, Stars and Flames, who are believed to be floating packages that include second-round picks and prospects in this weekend's draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers.
If form holds, Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather likely will wait until the last minute to force suitors to improve their offers before pulling the trigger on Talbot, who is 33-15-5 as a Ranger. His absence will mean that the cap-strapped Blueshirts, who still need to re-sign four key restricted free agents -- Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin (both of whom are arbitration-eligible, which could lead to tough negotiations), Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller -- also will need a free-agent backup on or after July 1.
Among the possibilities: Jhonas Enroth, 26 (career numbers of 43-61-14, .909, 2.88); Thomas Greiss, 29 (36-30-11, .913, 2.47); Anders Lindback, 27 (40-51-7, .905, 2.83); Jonas Gustavsson, 30 (60-55-21, .901, 2.89), and Richard Bachman, 27 (17-14-2, .904, 2.93).
Talbot last season finished 21-9-4 (.926 save percentage, 2.21 goals-against average).
The Rangers are between $11.5 million and $11.9 million under the $71.4-million salary cap, and sending Talbot elsewhere is the logical chip to play because they also can restock with the extra picks or prospects. The club's first pick is No. 59, followed by third-, fourth-, sixth- and seventh-rounders. Their first-round selection went to Tampa Bay in last spring's swap of Ryan Callahan for Martin St. Louis, who is not expected to be offered a new contract.
With a higher pick in the second round -- unless Sather can cajole a first-rounder from someone -- the Rangers would be able to add a piece, perhaps center Nicolas Roy or blueliner Gabriel Carlsson. They could use their own selection for Calgary native Austin Wagner, who played for Regina in the WHL; Swede Robin Kovacs, Russians Alexander Dergachyov and Denis Gurianov or defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.