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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Lundqvist future with Rangers, Bruins depth behind Rask, Halak

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the May 20 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards. 

 

If the rest of the season gets cancelled, have we seen the last of Henrik Lundqvist on the Rangers? His career? -- @AndrewHarts

I'm optimistic the season will resume at some point, so right off the bat it tells me we haven't seen the last of Lundqvist in a Rangers uniform. But the real question is what happens after this season? I don't know what will happen, but I like the idea of keeping Lundqvist and Igor Shesterkin for another season. It would give Shesterkin a full season with a likely Hockey Hall of Famer. But the situation is complicated.

Lundqvist is signed through next season. The Rangers also have Shesterkin, who can become a restricted free agent after next season, and Alexandar Georgiev, who can become a restricted free agent after this season. It doesn't seem realistic or smart for the Rangers to carry a three-goalie system into next season. It's entirely reasonable for them to want to go with the combination of Shesterkin and Georgiev, who are each 24. Lundqvist is 38. 

The Rangers need to either trade Georgiev and keep Lundqvist, or find a way to move on from Lundqvist, through a contract buyout, a trade, or the unlikely possibility of retirement. Lundqvist has never talked about leaving the NHL before his contract expires. The last resort should be a buyout, because that's more dead money on the salary cap for next season. The Rangers will already have more than $7 million in dead money on their cap because of buyouts of defensemen Dan Girardi and Kevin Shattenkirk, and money owed to forward Ryan Spooner based on salary retained when they traded him to the Edmonton Oilers for center Ryan Strome on Nov. 16, 2018. Adding to that a Lundqvist buyout, coupled with a new contract for Georgiev, could undercut their ability to make appropriate moves on the rest of their roster. 

 

Which goalie from the KHL do you think will have the biggest impact in the NHL next season, not including Ilya Sorokin? -- @GLaSnoST9

The easy answer is Shesterkin. The 24-year-old was a hit in New York with the Rangers before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Shesterkin looked poised, in control, unfazed by the NHL, albeit in a small sample size (12 games). He was 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. He was a winner in the Kontinental Hockey League with SKA St. Petersburg (80 wins, 1.68 GAA, .935 save percentage and 27 shutouts in 117 regular-season games). He was a winner with Hartford of the American Hockey League in his half-season there (15 wins, 1.93 GAA, .932 save percentage and three shutouts prior to his recall). He has so far been a winner in New York. 

I can't say the same with any degree of certainty for San Jose Sharks goalie Alexei Melnichuk, who was Shesterkin's replacement this season with SKA St. Petersburg. THe 21-year-old signed as a free agent May 4 after he was 8-5-1 with a 1.68 GAA, .930 save percentage and four shutouts in 16 KHL games. His numbers are strong, but he doesn't have the same experience as Shesterkin or Sorokin, the 24-year-old unsigned New York Islanders prospect who had 134 wins, a 1.70 GAA and .930 save percentage in 244 regular-season KHL games with CSKA Moscow and Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the past eight seasons. 

There is also Vasili Demchenko, a 26-year-old who agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on April 21. After playing for Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk in the KHL, he will play behind Carey Price if he plays in the NHL at all. Demchenko won't have the opportunity to make an impression the way Shesterkin and, potentially, Sorokin and Melnichuk will have.

 

What is the goaltending depth for the Boston Bruins after next season with Tuukka Rask stating he may retire and Jaroslav Halak only signed for one year? Are Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar the future? -- @GlaSnoST9

Two goalie questions from the same follower. I'll take it.

Rask said last week that he still has a passion for playing and winning, so I wouldn't count on him retiring any time soon. But there is a succession plan in place with Rask (33 years old) and Halak (35) each eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. That doesn't mean one or both won't re-sign, but Vladar appears to be a big part of the Bruins' future. He was their third-round pick (No. 75) in the 2015 NHL Draft and was with them as the third goalie in the Stanley Cup Final last season. He was among the best goalies in the AHL this season, leading the league with a 1.79 GAA and .936 save percentage in 25 games (14-7-1) for Providence. The 22-year-old is 6-foot-5, and there's a lot to like.

Video: BOS@PHI: Rask earns 50th NHL shutout on 33rd birthday

But there is also the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft to consider. The Bruins must have a goalie to expose to NHL Seattle. He must be either under contract for 2021-22 or a restricted free agent following the 2020-21 season. All first- and second-year pros are exempt. Swayman, who signed March 18 after a stellar career at the University of Maine, is in that category. Vladar is not. If the status quo holds, the Bruins will want to protect Vladar, meaning they need a goalie to expose. Re-signing Rask or Halak before the expansion draft means they'd likely have to expose one of them. That doesn't make sense when they could wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign. The Bruins will have to figure out the goalie to expose in the expansion draft, but protecting Vladar is essential to the future of Boston's goaltending depth.

 

Do you think we will ever see a goalie taken No. 1 again? -- @HollmanTodd

Never say never because we don't know when the next great goalie prospect will come along. However, I wouldn't bet on it. Three times in the 57-year history of the NHL Draft has a goalie been selected with the No. 1 pick: Michel Plasse by the Montreal Canadiens in 1968, Rick DiPietro by the Islanders in 2000, and Marc-Andre Fleury by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003. Teams selecting No. 1 in the draft are looking for an immediate gain, especially in the NHL salary cap era, when high-end players on entry-level contracts are a significant commodity. Goalies typically take several years to develop properly. It's better for a team to use a No. 1 pick on a skater who can be inserted into the lineup immediately and begin to grow with the team. Selecting a goalie later in the draft takes the pressure off him to develop quickly and gives the team selecting him ample time to make sure he's doing what is necessary to grow. Having reliable goalies in the pipeline is essential to the success of any team, so they should still be drafting them in later rounds. But using a No. 1 pick on a goalie doesn't make sense when a skater could make a more immediate impact.

 

We have seen top prospects come out of Finland, Germany and Switzerland in recent years. How long will it be until we see one come out of China? With over one billion citizens, it seems they have the ability to produce an NHL caliber player. -- @theashcity

I reported and wrote on this topic at the start of last season when I was in Shenzhen and Beijing to cover the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games with the Bruins and Calgary Flames. The NHL has been active in China for the past few years, promoting the game at the grassroots level and trying to help the country build the infrastructure to create a meaningful and impactful hockey system. There are schools and camps in China run by former NHL players. Wayne Gretzky has brought one of his hockey school programs to China. But developing talent is going to take time. It could take years for the Chinese to become significant players on the international ice hockey stage. There are kids playing in China now. They're learning and growing. It's fair to assume one of them could become a prospect worthy of being drafted. It'd be a stretch at this point to suggest China is close to producing a top NHL prospect similar to Patrik Laine (Finland), Leon Draisaitl (Germany) or Nico Hischier (Switzerland). But if China and the NHL continue to work together to develop the sport, with the resources in the country it's entirely reasonable to think someone born today could become a top prospect in 18 years.

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