Snap Shot

Dreger: "Ongoing Discussions" with G Ondrej Pavelec

With less than 24 hours to go before the bell tolls signaling the opening of the Unrestricted Free Agent market, it appears the Rangers have set their sights on soon-to-be ex-Winnipeg Jets’ goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec.

After being sent to the AHL for much of the 2016-17 season, Pavelec, 29, was recalled late in the season and only played in eight games for the Jets last year in which he posted a middling .888 SV% and horrific 3.55 GA/A. Suffice it to say, if the Rangers are eyeing him as the next backup goaltender to Henrik Lundqvist, it’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from goalie coach Benoit Allaire to rehab his career back to respectability. The good news for the Blueshirts is, given his career dip, Pavelec should come in at a very reasonable price point and might be one of the cheapest backup goaltenders available.

Anders Nilsson by Sarah Gansky
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Anders Nilsson: A Shestyorkin Case Study?

“He’s been excellent whether he’s been playing or he’s not been playing,” Bylsma said of Nilsson. “He’s been ready to play well every time he’s stepped in there.”

Raanta and Talbot both thrived in the limited role and showed the ability to carry the load should Lundqvist be out for an extended period. Nilsson has shown as least the propensity for the first half of the role and if his KHL performance in 2014-15 is any showcase of NHL ability, he can perform in a longer term as well.

Of course, what should also make Nilsson attractive to the New York brass is that he should come relatively cheap. Last season, in Buffalo, Nilsson earned $1 million even. Since nobody is going to be giving him starter money, considering his inconsistencies in the NHL, a moderate raise should be appropriate. Mike Condon just signed a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.4 million, but that’s probably on the high end for Nilsson while Raanta’s previous two-year, $2 million dollar deal seems a bit low. There are a number of backup goalies (Budaj, Montoya, Hutchinson, Khudobin, and Hammond) who all fall between $1 million and $1.5 million, and that’s a safe bet for Nilsson. Something like two years and $2.70 million should be the sweet spot.

The most fascinating aspect of a potential Nilsson signing is that he provides a template to set fair expectations for prospect Igor Shestyorkin, the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 2014. Though when Shestyorkin will make the jump from the KHL to the NHL is anybody’s guess, it’s even harder to say how well KHL success as a goalie translates to the NHL. Generally speaking, the elite KHL goalies are guys who have made their careers in Europe or Russia and rarely are legitimate NHL prospects amongst the best.

Dating back to the 2008-09 season, just two goalies who have spent significant time in the NHL—Semyon Varlamov and Kari Ramo—have finished in the top-five in save percentage in the KHL. Not even Sergei Bobrovsky did it, though he did have sixth- and seventh-place finishes.

While it’s hard to define Nilsson’s limited NHL experience as “significant” to date, he posted a .936 save percentage to finish third amongst all KHL goalies in the 2014-2015 season. Last year, Shestyorkin finished fourth with a .937 save percentage. The parallels there are striking, even if the two goalies’ styles are vastly different, and it’s interesting to think that part of the appeal to Nilsson is that he can help Gorton and Allaire better understand how to measure Shestyorkin’s KHL production and sustain his growth.

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Tanev-er Gonna Give You Up

If Benning agrees that Lindberg can be a top-six guy (a role he took on for Sweden in the World Championships last month), or Raanta is a certified top goalie that Vancouver can hitch its hopes to, then a Tanev trade is easy, but both seem unlikely. Most likely, either of the two would have to be included in a deal as part of a larger package.

Evaluating the cost for Tanev is tricky because he has a very strong but limited skillset. He’s one of the league’s top shot suppressors but doesn’t have a great offensive resume*. Because of that, his value will certainly change from team to team and, most likely, the realistic cost for Tanev comes somewhere between the returns for Brendan Smith and Dougie Hamilton.

*It’s worth mentioning that, though Tanev doesn’t have a great offensive track record, he’s a good skater and strong with the first pass. That bodes really well for being productive in Alain Vigneault’s system. We saw glimpses of Brendan Smith, a comparable player, as an offensive presence despite limited minutes and adapting to a new system this past Spring.

As we know, the Rangers’ brass chose to give up second and third-round draft picks to acquire Smith from Detroit at the trade deadline. While that would be a price that New York would certainly be happy paying to Vancouver for Tanev, it’s probably wishful thinking as Tanev is an elite-level defensive player.

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Everyone Needs a Subban

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.

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That Raanta is So Hot Right Now

The Flames aren’t especially pressured by Vegas expansion, but they do need a goaltender to protect as their starter, with both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson being UFAs this summer. Raanta and his especially easy to digest $1M AAV for next season would be an ideal financial scenario for a Flames team with nearly $30M tied up in six forwards (Gaudreau, Monahan, Brouwer, Frolic, Backlund, Stajan) and another $20M-plus in four defensemen (Giordano, Hamilton, Brodie, Engelland) next season. Like was the case with Talbot and the Oilers, too, acquiring Raanta with a year left on his contract would give them the added benefit of taking him for a test drive as a starter for the first time in his career before committing to a long-term extension. This is an advantage they simply wouldn’t have should they wait to see if he makes it to Unrestricted Free Agency in the summer of 2018.

Perhaps the Rangers might try to take another run at Dougie Hamilton, who found his name churning through the rumor mill last season, who would no doubt compliment Ryan McDonagh’s flank like nothing he’s experienced thus far through his Rangers career. Raanta won’t accomplish that feat alone, but it’s possible he could be a feature in a larger package to bring the Toronto native to New York City. I’m sure the Flames would have plenty of interest in acquiring Kevin Hayes as a means to reunite him with his Boston College running mate, Johnny Gaudreau. The two are currently playing together again for Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship games giving Flames’ GM Brad Treliving an idea of the kind of chemistry the two forwards share.