When the NHL season was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Rangers were out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
If the season resumes and they miss out, Madison Square Garden would be without postseason hockey for the third straight year. So it's not too much of a surprise that there has been some buzz around roster moves that the Rangers could make this offseason.
One rumor involves goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has played for New York for his entire 15-year NHL career. However, the 38-year-old may have played his final game for the Rangers.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post is expecting New York to buy out Lundqvist and move forward with Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev as its goaltender duo.
Lundqvist is projected to make $5.5 million ($8.5 million cap hit) in the 2020-21 season, the final year of his deal. But if the Rangers don't plan to utilize him, it would make sense for the two sides to cut ties before then. According to Puckpedia, buying out their longtime netminder would open up $3 million in cap space next season.
In 2019-20, Lundqvist played in only 30 games and made just 26 starts, leaving him on pace to set career lows in both categories. He also had career worsts in save percentage (.905) and goals-against average (3.16).
It's likely there will still be teams interested in bringing in Lundqvist should he become a free agent, but it's understandable why the Rangers are ready to move forward with Shesterkin and Georgiev, who are both 24. In 12 games this season, the former went 10-2, posting a .932 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average. Georgiev had a .910 save percentage and 3.04 goals-against average in 34 games.
Lundqvist discussed his future earlier this season, and he's aware of the possibility of change.
"I've been very open with the management the two years," Lundqvist said in February, according to Vincent Z. Mercogliano of The Journal News. "I've been through this [rebuilding] process that. If there comes a day where they feel like I'm not a good solution, let's talk about it. Let's be open about it."
Another potential move the Rangers could make this offseason is adding a center. Brooks noted they "surely will seek to bulk up down the middle," adding that Ryan Strome's contract status (he is set to become a restricted free agent) and Filip Chytil readiness for an expanded role could influence whether they bring in somebody to take over on the second line.
However, Brooks is ruling out a potential trade for Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has only one year left on his contract.