The Rangers not only landed star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk but secured an experienced backup for Henrik Lundqvist as the free-agent market opened Saturday. Former Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million.
The Czech goaltender, 29, who has a career mark of 152-158-47 with a 2.87 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage, replaces Antti Raanta, who played well here for two seasons before being traded to Arizona with Derek Stepan last week in exchange for the No. 7 overall pick in the draft (Lias Andersson) and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.
Pavelec, who struggled with a concussion and a knee injury last season, will be expected to start between 20 and 25 games. He won at least 21 games for five consecutive seasons, first with the Atlanta Thrashers before they became the Jets. He was 4-4 in eight starts as Connor Hellebuyck, 24, assumed the starting role.
It will be the first time in five seasons that the Rangers have a former NHL starter as Lundqvist’s understudy. Cam Talbot and Raanta handled the duties more than capably in the last four years.
The two signings didn’t fill all the holes, general manager Jeff Gorton said, particularly at center, where Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes currently rank 1-2. The third- and fourth-line pivots are unclear at this point. Besides Stepan’s absence, Oscar Lindberg was grabbed by Las Vegas in the expansion draft.
“We know it’s a need,” Gorton said. “We have the luxury of [winger] J.T. Miller, who we feel is a natural center and at some point we’re hoping to make that move, but we’ve had discussions with some teams and some trade scenarios. We’ll see where it takes us.”
Gorton, who has about $8.3 million left in salary-cap room, also has to sign two restricted free agents, Zibanejad and right wing Jesper Fast, and noted that talks are “moving in the right direction.”