Candidates to replace Igor Shesterkin next season

The New York Rangers will once again explore options for a replacement goaltender Igor Shesterkin.

When the Rangers fell to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7, it marked the end of Jaroslav Halak’s one-year contract with the team. With limited cap space, estimated at around $11,762,918 by PuckPedia, a low-cost replacement is part of general manager Chris Drury’s offseason program.

Shesterkin will again receive the majority of starts for next season, so the ideal backup will play around 25 games. It requires a certain veteran mindset to be ready to go even if it’s been over a week since your last start.

Let’s dive into some potential candidates.

Rangers rumours: Louis Domingue a consideration?

Rangers were impressed with Louis Domingue’s performance in last season’s first-round playoff game as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was forced into Game 1 after Casey DeSmith was injured and won a triple OT contest on Garden ice. His bold performance led to a two-year contract with New York at an AAV of $775,000.

This season, the 31-year-old veteran is a big reason the Hartford Wolf Pack ended a long playoff drought dating back to the 2014-15 campaign. He did so by posting a 22-12-8 record with 4 shutouts, a 2.51 GAA and a .911 save percentage.

Domingue is also one of those rare goalkeepers who catches with his right hand. It would be a nice change of pace against opponents in a home-and-away series.

For his NHL career, Domingue’s numbers stand at 59-60-10 with a GAA of 3.04 and an SV% of 0.905. While his salary cap is perfectly fine, Rangers may want to opt for a more proven backup in the big leagues.

It’s just nice to know that if they go into the free agent market, they’ll have a fallback option in Domingo.

Free agent options

February 11, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) left wing Artemi Panarin (10) and goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory – USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to veteran goaltenders who could replace Shesterkin, there are a few unrestricted free agent candidates who stand out. If the Rangers budget stays the same as last season, you’re looking at a goaltender willing to accept a one-year contract at around $1.5 million.

Here are my top five:

UFA AGE 2022-23 VAA
Jaroslav Halak 38 $1,500,000
Cam Talbot 35 $3,666,667
Antti Raanta 34 $2,000,000
Thomas Greiss 37 $1,500,000
Alex Nedeljkovic 27 $3,000,000
AAV via CapFriendly

Jaroslav Halak (2022-23 stats: 10-9-5, 2.72 GAA, 0.903 SV%)

If Halak feels like he has one more season left in him, Rangers could easily return to the beloved veteran. Despite a slow start where he won only once in 8 starts (1-6-1), he calmed down and won 7 straight from December to February to help transform his season and that of the team.

Cam Talbot (2022-23 stats: 17-14-2, 2.93 GAA, 0.898 SV%)

Talbot is one of two UFA goalkeepers to have previously played for Rangers. In two seasons as a substitute for Henrik Lundqvist from 2013-14 to 2014-15, he was superb with a 33-15-5 record with a 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage. Already familiar with the pressures of performing on Broadway, he could be a good fit if he’s willing to take a pay cut and a lesser role.

Antti Raanta (2022-23 stats: 19-3-3, 2.23 GAA, 0.910 SV%)

Raanta is another former Blueshirt and Lundqvist understudy. He actually replaced Talbot as Hank’s backup for two seasons from 2015-16 to 2016-17. A fan favourite, Raanta posted a 27-14-4 record with Rangers. He did it with a 2.25 GAA and a .921 save percentage. In addition, he knows the competition well in the Metro division having played with the Carolina Hurricanes for the past two years.

Thomas Greiss (2022-23 stats: 7-10-0, 3.58 GAA, 0.896 SV%)

Before Rangers inked Halak, Greiss was a goaltender that it was believed Drury had his eye on before signing with the St. Louis Blues. The 14-year-old veteran struggled last year, but so did the entire Blues squad. He’s definitely someone who can be an option if the others aren’t successful.

Alex Nedeljkovic (2022-23 stats: 5-7-2, 3.53 GAA, 0.895 SV%)

Once considered one of the best goaltenders, Nedeljkovic had a disastrous campaign with the Red Wings. However, he’s a goaltender who exploded onto the scene with the Hurricanes in 2020-21 recording a .932 save percentage and 1.90 GAA in 23 games. What better way for him to resurrect his career by signing a one-year contract to support Shesterkin while learning from goaltending guru Benoit Allaire.

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