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With the recent departure of Hartford goaltender, Magnus Hellberg for the KHL’s latest expansion team and Antti Raanta’s future questionable, the Rangers find themselves in a precarious position when it comes to goaltending. Raanta could very well find himself on the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 or possibly backstopping another team in need of a starting goaltender should the Rangers choose to sell high on their backup. That would leave Brandon Halverson and recently signed Chris Nell as the only signed goaltenders available. It’s highly unlikely that either would sniff the NHL at the current stage of their careers. The Rangers do have Igor Shestyorkin and Adam Huska on the horizon, though their career trajectories, promising as they may be, are years out. This means that the Rangers will need to look outside for help.
There are some strong backup options out there. Anders Nilsson, who most recently backstopped the Buffalo Sabres with very good numbers despite the team’s standing, and former Hartford starter Chad Johnson, whose one strong performance had some fans thinking he could be Henrik Lundqvist’s successor are both free agents. So too are Keith Kinkaid, Jonathan Bernier, and Curtis McElhinney among others. These options aside, there is another suitor out there that could potentially be up for grabs despite not currently being an unrestricted free agent. That player is Malcolm Subban.
The younger brother to P.K., Malcolm Subban has yet to make his mark in the NHL at the age of 23 despite being the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Since being drafted he has just two career NHL starts that have resulted in him having a career save percentage of .727 and a goals-against average of 5.82. In fact, Subban has never even completed an entire NHL game, having been yanked at around 30 minutes in both of his starts. Given his poor performances, why should Subban even be considered? It’s because his two NHL starts are no more telling of his potential career success than MacKenzie Skapski’s two NHL wins during the 2014-15 season in which he posted a .978 save percentage and .5 goals against average. This incredibly small sample size of just barely over 60 minutes fails to show what Subban is really capable of.
Once expected to be the successor to Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Subban’s inconsistent play has found him as the backup for the Providence Bruins behind the recently acquired Zane McIntyre. After a strong rookie campaign in the AHL in which he posted .920 SV% and 2.31 GAA, the young netminder has yet to really improve upon his play from his first professional season. In 35 starts in his second season, he marginally improved his save percentage by one-hundredth of a decimal point, but saw a drop in his GAA to 2.44. What would follow for Subban was a poor third season in which he would suffer a fractured larynx and ultimately lose his job to Zane McIntyre for good. McIntyre has found himself climbing the Bruins totem pole. He was given eight NHL starts this season and a had a strong AHL campaign in which he posted .930 SV%. Subban, on the other hand, is on the outside looking in for the Bruins despite posting a respectable .917 SV% and coming up big in the playoffs for Providence with .937 SV% between two relief appearances and one start.
Despite what has been a solid career thus far, Subban’s play has some questioning whether or not he’s a bust. Cam Hasbrouck of the Hockey Writers asks just this and arrives at the conclusion that he could very much be close to it, but deserves a bit more of a look. Having failed thus far to meet the high expectations of him, he could be on the way out of the Bruins organization. An RFA to be, it’s possible that he could go unqualified and as a result become a UFA. If not, he probably could be acquired for a low cost given his deteriorating value. The Bruins potentially giving up on him is good news for the Rangers.
Subban undoubtedly has the talent to be successful but has yet to put it into full practice. This is where the Rangers could benefit. Over the last decade, the Rangers have done some great work with goaltenders as a result of the efforts of coach Benoit Allaire. Allaire, who oversees both goaltending for the Rangers and their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack, has helped goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist, Chad Johnson, Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta to see success at the NHL level. Johnson and Talbot both came to work under Allaire at age 23 after several years playing at the NCAA level, so it might not be too late for Subban to study under the goaltending guru. Simple changes to his approach, which Allaire has become an expert in spotting, could help the Toronto native re-invent himself under the bright lights of Broadway.
Joining the Rangers would offer nothing but benefits for Subban. He would not only get to work with Benoit Allaire, but he would escape the pressures that have weighed on him in Boston. Best of all, while a starting role in Hartford is most likely his initial landing spot, a strong training camp and preseason could earn him the opportunity to work with his favorite goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. Believe it or not, Subban was a Rangers fan and would no doubt embrace an opportunity to be a part of the organization.
If the Blueshirts agree that there’s still potential left in him, we could be looking at a match made in heaven.