Help Wanted: Experienced goaltender to play 20-plus games next season. Guidance provided by goaltending coach with record of success. Far less travel than most NHL teams. Salary negotiable, but commensurate with position. Contact Jeff Gorton, New York Rangers general manager.
In the aftermath of the trade of steadfast Antti Raanta to Arizona last week, Gorton has been making a list and checking it more than twice.
Although the Rangers next backup goaltender presumably will cost a small percentage of the Blueshirts’ $20 million in cap space, the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Henrik Lundqvist, on the wrong side of 35, started 55 games last season. In the previous three, he started 62, 46 and 64. Coach Alain Vigneault relied on Raanta (16-8-2, 2.24 goals-against-average, .922 save percentage) to give the Rangers a chance to win in back-to-backs and when Lundqvist was injured or needed a breather.
That ship has sailed. The Coyotes insisted on Raanta, who has a salary cap charge of $1 million in 2017-18, being part of the package with Derek Stepan.
Internally, the Rangers have no immediate options. Magnus Hellberg, who played two games in New York (winning one) and 36 in Hartford, left for the KHL. That’s where the franchise’s top netminding prospect, Igor Shestyorkin, is under contract to play for the next two seasons. Brandon Halverson, a second-round draft pick in 2014, needs to sharpen his game in the minors.
So which unrestricted free agents out there might fit the bill?
Mike Condon. In Ottawa, the 27-year-old won 19 games with five shutouts, and played two playoff matches, with a 2.50 GAA and .914 save percentage at a bargain price of $575,000. He’ll grab more than that from somebody.
Anders Nilsson. For a $1 million, the 6-foot-6 Nilsson won 10 games for the middling Sabres last season and posted a 2.67 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Keith Kincaid. The former Devil, 27, appeared in 26 games with a 2.64 GAA, and a .916 save percentage. He had a $725,000 cap hit last season.
Chad Johnson. Would the Rangers give Johnson, now 31, a second try? In 2009-10 he went 4-1-2 in New York. Last season, with Calgary, he was 18-15-1 with a 2.59 GAA and .910 save percentage. Would have to take a haircut on his previous $1.7 million salary, though.
Two veterans are possibilities. Antti Niemi, 33, bought out by the Dallas Stars, who acquired Tampa’s Ben Bishop, has played in 423 games, including five seasons with the San Jose Sharks. Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec, 29, was limited by a concussion and a knee injury late last season. He began his career with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008 and has played 379 games overall.