Henrik Lundqvist’s triumphant return to the crease was short-lived.
Following his first shutout since 2017 over the weekend against the Detroit Red Wings, Lundqvist was pulled after the second period in Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.
He allowed four goals on 15 shots before getting the hook — an anticlimactic answer to his 33-save, turn-back-the-clock performance against the NHL’s worst team.
Monday night’s start was the 37-year-old’s second of February, which was the same amount of starts he received in all of January.
Rangers head coach David Quinn has been tasked with juggling three goalies on his roster after the organization’s decision to recall top netminding prospect, Igor Shesterkin.
“Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation for the goalies or the coach or anybody, really,” Quinn said. “But I think they’ve all done a great job handling it. They all want to play. I want them all to play. I want them to be pissed off when they’re not in there. But they don’t let it get in the way of their work ethic and they don’t get let it get in the way of what goes on in that locker room. They’ve done a great job handling the situation.
The wrench thrown into the goaltending platoon of Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev immediately fueled speculation as to which talent will be the odd-man-out of the situation with the NHL trade deadline approaching on Feb. 24.
It won’t be Shesterkin, though.
Georgiev has been accruing interest on the trade market in recent weeks. The 23-year-old is 12-10-1 with a .909 save percentage and a 3.12 goals-against average.
He is believed to be the most likely to go before the trade deadline given the tricky situation Lundqvist provides. The franchise-great in the twilight of his career is putting up mediocre numbers compared to his prime with a 10-11-3 record, .907 SV%, and 3.13 GAA.
“You don’t treat every player the same. What you do is you treat every player fairly,” Quinn said. “When you’re 37 years old, and you’ve had the career Hank has had — and you’re still the goalie he is — there is a lot that goes into these decisions and the conversations you have.”
The easy answer would be trading Lundqvist to a contender in an attempt to get him that elusive Stanley Cup title he’s yet to win.
His full no-trade clause, however, hinders such a simple formula.
There could come a point soon when he becomes fed up with the lack of playing time that has come with the three-goalie system, but that would be quite the change of character from the professionalism that he’s displayed over his career.
It’s also a dangerous game for the Rangers to be playing to try and tarnish the relationship they have with a franchise legend.
Lundqvist is signed through next season, but don’t expect the Rangers to keep that three-goalie system intact for nearly that long. Something will have to give soon.