The Rangers on Wednesday made the bold, prudent move to buy out sure-fire Hall of Fame goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the face of the Blueshirts for the better part of the last 15 seasons, as the biggest step in their ongoing makeover.
Lundqvist, 38, had only one year remaining on his deal, so his going-away gift on Broadway will be a total $3 million, paid over these next two seasons. Bittersweet for Lundqvist, but not all departures from Manhattan are as, shall we say, kind to the wallet. He also received a $1 million signing bonus in July. Perhaps Lundqvist has some game left, maybe in a mentoring role as a backup, but time and age caught up to him.
Rangers coach David Quinn, the former Boston University bench boss, now will chart a course forward with Igor Shesterkin and/or Alexandar Georgiev. The pair of promising 24-year-olds made it clear to general manager Jeff Gorton during 2019-20 that he can risk making the change at the most important position on the ice.
An added enticement, of course, was trimming Lundqvist’s $8.5 million cap hit by $3 million for next season. As the weekend approached, Gorton had a whopping $23 million in salary-cap space, albeit with a half-dozen significant free agents, including RFA Georgiev, to ink for 2020-21. It will spend quickly.
Lundqvist’s ascent to stardom, his 459 wins ranking him No. 6 all time in the NHL, is worth a second look with the NHL Draft to be staged on Tuesday and Wednesday. History proves there is no art in choosing goaltenders, a lesson underscored all too well for the Bruins. Spotting a goalie is more a capricious exercise than it is a defined career calculation.
The Rangers in 2000 claimed Lundqvist with the 205th pick in the draft, which was the same year the Islanders used the No. 1 pick to select BU freshman Rick DiPietro, who called it quits seven years ago with 329 fewer wins than Lundqvist.
For the record, there were 10 other goalies chosen after Lundqvist in the 2000 draft, the vast majority of whom never made it the show. Austrian-born Reinhard Divis, No. 261 by St. Louis, led that “also-ran” pack by logging 28 games for the Blues.
The then-unknown Lundqvist was a puck-stopper without pedigree in June 2000, while the oft-injured DiPietro had the flash and promise of his 18-5-5 freshman season at BU on his résumé. No one in the league would have picked Lundqvist No. 1, but imagine the direction of both franchises these last 20 years if the Islanders had gone off the top with King Henrik, who departs Broadway trailing only Martin Brodeur (691), Patrick Roy (551), Roberto Luongo (489), Ed Belfour (484), and Marc-Andre Fleury (466) on the wins list.
For their part, the Bruins, dating to the start of the entry draft in 1963, have never developed one of their picks into a franchise stopper in Black and Gold. Not a single hit to have and to hold in more than a half-century.
The closest they came with those picks, which number 42, was Bill Ranford, chosen No. 52 in 1985. Ranford had played 45 games in Boston by the age of 21, when GM Harry Sinden wheeled him to Edmonton, along with Geoff Courtnall, for Andy Moog.
Ranford became a legit No. 1 with the Oilers, and he returned to Boston midway through the 1995-96 season, only to be moved again a little more than a year later when the Bruins dealt with the Capitals for Jason Allison, Anson Carter, and Jim Carey. Ranford went 1-7 in his brief playoff tours with the Bruins.
Otherwise, the Bruins made out OK with their choice of Andrew Raycroft (No. 135 in 1998), who played 108 games in Boston, won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 2004, only to be surprisingly wheeled to the Maple Leafs for Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins' best picks at the position were their first two in franchise history — Ken Dryden (No. 14, 1964) and Dan Bouchard (No. 27, 1970).
Just weeks after that 1964 draft, the Bruins dealt Dryden, the legend in making, to the Canadiens, whose net he tended in 1971 and all but singlehandedly denied the mighty Bruins a second consecutive Stanley Cup title. It was the first of six Cup titles backed by Dryden in Montreal.
Bouchard also never suited up in varsity Black and Gold. After playing in 50 games for the 1971-72 AHL Boston Braves, he was claimed by the Atlanta Flames in the June 1972 expansion draft. Bouchard, who also played for Quebec and Winnipeg, finished with 656 games, ranking 37th on the NHL list for goalies.
Of all those goalies the Bruins drafted, only five, including Dan Vladar this summer, ever suited up for them in the playoffs, a group that stands at a combined 10-17 in postseason play. The one with the most postseason success: Mike Moffat (No. 165, 1980).
Moffat was the buzz of the town in 1982, when coach Gerry Cheevers opted to go with him in the playoffs ahead of Marco Baron or Rogie Vachon. Moffat went 6-5 that spring, which 38 years later stands as the record for most decisions and wins in the Boston net for a goalie drafted by the Bruins.
Moffat, uncomfortable with the spotlight, called it a career soon after playing in his final NHL game with the Bruins in 1983-84 — the season he turned 22 years old.
Following, a year-by-year look at all the goalies ever drafted by the Bruins. The number in parentheses after a player’s name denotes regular-season games played for the Bruins (* — never played a regular-season game for Bruins):
1963 — none; 1964 — 14. Dryden*; 1965 — none; 1966 — none; 1967 — none; 1968 — none; 1969 — none; 1970 — 27. Bouchard*; 1971 — 28. Curt Ridley*; 1972 — none; 1973 — 79. Peter Crosbie*; 142. Jim Pettie (21); 1974 — 175. Peter Waselovich*; 1975 — 122. Gary Carr*; 1976 — none; 1977 — 34. Dave Parro*; 1978 — 119. Murray Skinner*; 1979 — 99. Baron (64); 1980 — 165. Moffat (19); 1981 — 98. Joe Mantione*; 182. Don Sylvestri (3); 1982 — 249. Bruno Campese*; 1983 — 82. Allan LaRochelle*; 122. Terry Taillefer*; 222. Norm Foster (3); 1984 — 103. Mike Bishop*; 1985 — 52. Ranford (122); 1986 — none; 1987 — 77. Matt DelGuidice (11); 1988 — none; 1989 — 38. Mike Parson*; 1990 — 105. Mike Bales (1); 1991 — 62. Marcel Cousineau*; 1992 — 112. Scott Bailey (19); 1993 — 259. Joakim Persson*; 1994 — 21. Evgeni Ryabchikov*; 229. John Grahame (76); 255. Neil Savary*; 1995 — 47. Paxton Schafer (3); 1996 — none; 1997 — none; 1998 — 135. Raycroft (108); 1999 — 147. Seamus Kotyk*; 179 — Donald Choukalos*; 2000 — none; 2001 — 209. Jordan Sigalet (1); 2002 — 29. Hannu Toivonen (38); 2003 — 153. Mike Brown*; 277. Kevin Regan*; 2004 — none; 2005 — none; 2006 — none; 2007 — none; 2008 — 77. Michael Hutchinson*; 2009 — none; 2010 — 165. Zane McIntyre (8); 2011 — 181. Lars Volden*; 2012 — 24. Malcolm Subban (2); 2013 — none; 2014 — none; 2015 — 75. Vladar*; 2016 — none; 2017 — 111. Jeremy Swayman*; 2018 — none; 2019 — none.
Total regular-season games played: 499; Goalies drafted: 42
FUN IS OVER
Difficult decisions for Lightning
Not unlike when the Blackhawks were banking their Stanley Cup titles (2010, ’13, ’15), and were forced to ship out pricey talent to be remain cap-compliant, the Lightning now have some very sticky payroll math for GM Julien BriseBois to resolve.
Which is to say, don’t be surprised if BriseBois moves a significant body or two around the upcoming draft, even before those Tampa Bay names are officially engraved on the Cup.
The added degree of difficulty here: Several of the Lightning’s key personnel are inked to deals with no-move or no-trade clauses.
The no-moves include Steven Stamkos and Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman. No issue, really. BriseBois wouldn’t think to deal either.
Star winger Nikita Kucherov, who banked 27 assists in the Cup run, sees his no-move clause kick in Friday, the day that officially marks the new season. Until then, BriseBois could deal him. But again, moot point. Going nowhere. But man, how the Rangers would love to have Kucherov riding the wing opposite fellow Russian star Artemi Panarin. Almost as much as NBC would love it.
The real conundrum for BriseBois rests in the likes of Ondrej Palat ($5.3 million), Yanni Gourde ($5.166 million), and Tyler Johnson ($5 million). Arguably, they are all overpaid. But beyond price, they also have no-trade clauses. To get any of them gone, BriseBois first has to sell them to pack bags. Not an easy sales pitch to make just days after they all clinched their first Cup.
The most likely one to go is ex-Harvard forward Alex Killorn, a slight step down on the payroll at $4.45 million for each of the next three seasons. Killorn, 31, will entice many teams at that pay point, and his contract only prohibits him from being traded to 16 teams (a list he had to submit July 1, according to Cap Friendly).
BriseBois has some $5.3 million in cap space but needs to extend the contracts of forward Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. He also must decide whether to bring back UFA Patrick Maroon up front and Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian, both UFAs, on the back end. Sergachev alone will get more than $5.3 million.
Clubs are allowed to exceed the cap ($81.5 million) by 10 percent in the offseason, forced only to be compliant upon submitting rosters for Opening Night.
For now, Killorn looks all but certain to be a goner. The wild card of all wild cards would be Kucherov, now banking $9.5 million a year. For some Bolts fans, it would be akin to the Bruins dealing Phil Esposito, then 33, in 1975. Kucherov, 27, is considerably younger. Fans would be irate.
But keep in mind, Wayne Gretzky was 27 when the Oilers, with owner Peter Pocklington in need of money, dealt him to the Kings in the summer of 1988. Often the dollar signs dictate, no matter the players, no matter whose feelings get hurt.
Bruins have gone bargain hunting
Round 1 of the draft, to be held virtually, will be Tuesday night. Unless GM Don Sweeney gets creative over the weekend, the Bruins won’t have access to a first-round pick, having dished their No. 27 to Anaheim in the David Backes-Ondrej Kase swap in February.
Backes, who came to Boston in July 2016, remains the last of Sweeney’s high-priced free agent acquisitions. With little to show for the big paydays he doled out to Matt Beleskey (2015) and Backes, Sweeney has taken a decidedly budget approach to free agency the last three years.
Free agency, always a virtual event, begins at noon Friday. Will Sweeney again keep the Jeremy Jacobs wallet all but folded? The answer rests with UFA defenseman Torey Krug, who as the weekend approached appeared to remain fixed on the idea of hitting the open market.
If Krug walks, Sweeney no doubt uses a portion of his $14 million in cap space to shore up the back end. The biggest name available is Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, but his payday ($9 million cap hit?) could make it tricky for Sweeney to extend key RFAs Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk, the latter of whom has arbitration rights for the first time.
Unlike Julien BriseBois in Tampa, Sweeney has far more flexibility to trade from his core roster talent. Brad Marchand is the sole Bruin with a no-move clause. Even Patrice Bergeron can be traded now, albeit to only one of the three teams he has identified.
If Sweeney were to move on now from David Krejci ($7.25 million) and/or Tuukka Rask ($7 million), then the entire exercise changes. Keep in mind, just days after the Bruins were eliminated in Round 2 by the Lightning, team president Cam Neely hinted of possible big changes when he noted the need to be “brutally honest” in assessing where the franchise is headed in the next few seasons.
So if Krug walks, it could set off a series of moves, possibly around the acquisition of Pietrangelo in back or, say, power forward Taylor Hall.
Keep in mind, Krejci and Rask become unrestricted free agents after next season. Sweeney’s strength to deal either will be zero if they hit the open market. We don’t know much at this hour, but we do know he can’t afford to lose all three as UFAs for zero comp in the span of what could be less than a calendar year.
All of which could make for a very interesting draft/free agency week.
The Bruins free agent signees since Sweeney took control of the process in 2015:
2015 — Beleskey (five years, $19 million); Noel Acciari (two years, $1.85 million); Frank Vatrano (three years, $2.775 million); Joonas Kemppainen (one year, $925,000); Jonas Gustavsson (one year, $700,000).
2016 — Backes (five years, $30 million); Anton Khudobin (two years, $2.4 million); Riley Nash (two years, $1.8 million); Dominic Moore (one year, $1 million); Tim Schaller (one year, $600,000).
2017 — Kenny Agostino (one year, $875,000); Paul Postma (one year, $725,000); Kyle Keyser (three years, $2.3 million); Jordan Szwarz (one year, $650,000).
2018 — John Moore (five years, $13.75 million); Jaroslav Halak (two years, $5.5 million); Chris Wagner (two years, $2.5 million); Joakim Nordstrom (two years, $2 million); Connor Clifton (two years, $1.45 million); Karson Kuhlman (two years, $1.525 million).
2019 — Brett Ritchie (one year/$1 million); Par Lindholm (two years, $1.75 million); Brendan Gaunce (one year, $700,000); Max Lagace (one year, $700,000); Alex Petrovic (one year, $700,000).
Note: Not all players signed in the immediate wake of the annual July 1 free agency date. Exceptions were: Acciari (June 3, 2015); Vatrano (March 15, 2015); Kemppainen (May 21, 2015); Keyser (Oct. 3, 2017); Clifton (May 3 2018); and Kuhlman (April 10, 2018).
Joe Bertagna’s curriculum vitae grows longer than Roberto Luongo’s leg pads. The former commissioner of Hockey East, and onetime Bruins goalie coach, recently teamed up with Darren Hersh for a delightful 64-page tome, “Revisiting Goaltending.” It’s a fun read for budding goalies, coaches of budding goalies, parents of budding goalies, and therapists of budding goalies. A look at goaltending concepts and how the position has evolved. Copies, $15 each, are available by writing Bertagna at 7 Concord St., Gloucester, MA, 01930 — the only house on the street with a mailbox in the shape of a five-hole … The Bruins also will be without their fourth-round pick in the draft (No. 120), the final piece of compensation owed to the Devils for the February 2019 acquisition of Marcus Johansson. Otherwise, their picks will be Nos. 58, 89, 151, 182, and 213 … Four days prior to cutting Henrik Lundqvist free, the Rangers dealt longtime defenseman Marc Staal, along with a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, to the Red Wings for future considerations. That nicked Staal’s $5.7 million cap hit off the Ranger books, helping GM Jeff Gorton build his $23 million bag of cash … During Peter Chiarelli’s days as GM, the Bruins were bidders when Anaheim sought deals for Bobby Ryan, recently bought out by the Senators. Ryan, 33, is confident his life is in order now after checking into alcohol rehab last November. Too much talent and size (6 feet 2 inches, 210 pounds) not to draw bids. Ryan grew up a Flyers fan in Cherry Hill, N.J., and current Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher was in the Ducks front office during Ryan’s Anaheim days … The Ducks, by the way, received a first-round pick in the July 2013 swap that sent Ryan to Ottawa. They used that No. 10 pick to select Nick Ritchie, shipped to the Bruins in February for Danton Heinen.