For anyone who is tired of the goalie theme this week, my tentative plan is to go a different direction tomorrow, so hang in there.
For anyone catching up:
Today’s article is a bit more out of left field but may not as inconceivable as one might think initially.
First, my regular dislaimer…I will repeat that I do not think the Hurricanes need to make a move in net to be competitive. Petr Mrazek and James Reimer were good enough or better in net in 2019-20, so returning with that duo plus Alex Nedeljkovic would not be a negative in my mind. That said, it is the off-season and exploring possible areas for improvement is the name of the game.
Today’s options are both players that would be hard to picture in a Hurricanes uniform or any uniform other than what they have worn for a long time — Henrik Lundqvist and Tuuka Rask.
Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers
At 38 years old Henrik Lundqvist is clearly in the twilight of his career and on a young team that also happens to have two very good young goalies. The transition to that next generation in net was already underway in 2019-20. Lundqvist has one year remaining on his contract for $8.5 million but with an actual salary of only $5.5 million. There is talk that the Rangers might buy him out which forces Lundqvist’s hand to decide if he wants to retire or go the Martin Brodeur route and give it one more spin in a different uniform for the first time in his NHL career. The Rangers have some cap space and might be able to retain some salary if Lundqvist is traded, or obviously if they buy him out, he becomes available for whatever it takes to sign. Then there is the question of whether he would prefer to just retire.
But let’s walk down the road of Lundqvist being available. He posted a ‘meh’ .905 save percentage and 3.16 goals against average in 2019-20 which pales compared to the .931 and 2.52 posted by rookie Igor Shesterkin behind the same team. So the big first question is whether Lundqvist is even an upgrade for the Hurricanes at this stage of his career. I think the straw man for acquiring Lundqvist is that just maybe a proud veteran would gain a second wind with a change of scenery and a bee in his bonnet after being let go by the Rangers. If brought in to pair with Mrazek, the Canes do not really give up what they had to take a gamble. Further, Lundqvist’s current contract or signing him as a free agent only for the 2020-21 season gives the Canes a kick at the can in the current year without committing salary to the 2021-22 season that sees Svechnikov and Hamilton on new contracts.
I feel like Lundqvist is admittedly a dice roll, but when a team is trying to take a big step up, sometimes that is what it takes and one-year term does not impact the ability to keep other players down the road.
Tuuka Rask with the Boston Bruins
Another interesting one ironically in a similar situation is Tuuka Rask. He has always had an up and down relationship with the Bruins. His decision to depart the bubble and leave his team mid-playoffs could be the last straw that sends the Bruins in another direction in net. Rask is a bit younger at 33 years old, but his situation is oddly similar to Lundqvist’s otherwise. He has been a mainstay and generally great goalie in Boston for a long time. He is in the last year of a pricey contract with a $7 million cap hit ($6.5 million actual salary). One key difference is that Rask is coming off a strong 2019-20 campaign with a 0.929 save percentage and 2.12 goals against average. Best bet is that the Bruins and Rask muddle through another year of their relationship, but who knows.
If the Bruins did make a decision to move on, he could be any interesting possibility. As with Lundqvist, he could likely be a one year kick at the can and then a free agent when the Hurricanes needed the salary cap back to re-sign Svechnikov and Hamilton. In addition, Rask’s contract gives him the ability name 15 teams he could be traded to. As noted above, Rask has had some ups and downs but if his statistics are not too much a result of Boston’s strong team defense, he has the potential to be a meaningful upgrade.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on Lundqvist? Is it just too far-fetched that he would ever don a Canes uniform? What are the chances that he is even an upgrade? Does anyone thing that being let go could fuel one last great season from the King?
2) What are your thoughts on Rask? Do you figure despite the ups and downs that Boston just rides out the final year of his contract? Or is there a chance that they move on early? If so, could he fit with the Canes?