When David LeNeveu was the best option the Rangers had as Henrik Lundqvist's backup in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final after rookie sensation Cam Talbot injured his hand, the Rangers real and pressing need for goaltending depth became a top priority this offseason. The Rangers made some big additions to their goaltending pool both on draft day and in free agency and they might still have more moves ahead of them. Let's take a closer look at the picks and signings that have revitalized the Rangers goaltending depth.
The Rangers took goaltender Brandon Halverson in the second round of the 2014 Draft. When the Rangers picked Halverson only three other goalies had been selected before him in the draft. In other words, there weren't many goalies available in the draft that were as coveted as Halverson was, and some have said that Halverson was more desirable than some of the guys who went before him. Halverson has been described as a bit of a gamble, but what goalie prospect isn't?
Halverson is a guy that has all the assets to be a successful goalie; he's big, quick, and athletic. He is also an excellent puck mover. Like most young goalies there are consistency issues and a serious lack of experience, but the best thing to do when a kid with raw talent like Halverson is on the table is to draft him and immediately start developing him for when you might need him. Not many teams in the NHL develop their own goaltenders but when you look at the success that the Rangers have had with guys like Lundqvist, Cam Talbot, and even Chad Johnson, it seems that creating NHL goaltenders is something that the Rangers have had some success with.
In the fourth round of the 2014 Draft the Rangers took Russian netminder Igor Shestyorkin with the 118th overall pick. When you look at Shestyorkin's stats last season in the KHL there's not a lot to be excited about, but do try and keep in mind the fact that he's 18 years old. In 9 games with Spartak Moscow Igor posted a 2.80 GAA in 9 games last season, going 1-5-2 (Spartak finished 12th in the West in the KHL and were outscored 105-147 in 2013-14). Shestyorki undoubtedly needs some work on his game, but he is supposedly as quick as a cat and he has already shown that he can compete against men at the age of 18. Sounds pretty good to me for a guy we have plenty of time to work with. It's hard to teach natural quickness, but it's much easier to teach technique and positioning.
The Desjardins signing shouldn't be overlooked. Instead of giving you my opinion on it, I'll let Allokago from Raw Charge and Chairman How's Glorious Army give you guys some fantastic insight on the AHL goaltender:
"Cédrick Desjardins' nickname is Ceddy, which is something one could tell from looking at his Twitter handle (Ceddy_30). During the first year of the Tampa Bay/Syracuse affiliation, that nickname was chanted in our humble War Memorial quite often, especially during the Syracuse Crunch's run to the AHL's Calder Cup final in 2013. Ceddy is a talented and capable goalie, but was forced out of the Tampa Bay organization due to combination of a crappy season, something that wasn't all his fault at all, and system depth.
Goalie depth is a great problem for a hockey organization to have, but not such a great one for players who aren't part of the overall plan. Ceddy was one of those players in the Tampa organization. With Andrei Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis behind him, and Ben Bishop in front of him, there was just one slot in the organization available: NHL back up. Ceddy isn't NHL-ready, and that basically left him without a job in the Tampa organization.
Ceddy's numbers from the 2013-2014 Crunch season don't exactly breed confidence. He had a 9-18-4 record in 35 games. He had a 2.81 GAA, and .900 SV%. However, last season is only part of Ceddy's picture, and it's an incomplete one, at that. The Crunch struggled mightily as a team last season, missing the AHL playoffs by a wide birth after winning the Eastern Conference championship the season before. Goaltending wasn't really the issue with the 2013-2014 Crunch squad. Injuries in Tampa Bay and in Syracuse ravaged the Crunch's roster, and the Crunch's young blue line struggled to pick up the slack.
In short; Syracuse couldn't score and couldn't defend, and that left their goalies high and dry for most of the season. On top of that, Ceddy then had a difficult time getting consistent minutes once Gudlevskis proved he was AHL-ready. The two were co-back-ups for a bit, but eventually (and probably inevitably) Gudlevskis pulled ahead of him, in part because of organizational pressures to get Gudlevskis minutes (not necessarily because of Ceddy's actual performance). Eventually, Gudlevskis took over the number one slot in Syracuse, and it was easy to see that the Crunch was told to play him as often as possible. This left Ceddy kind of high and dry when it came to getting consistent game play.
Changing gears a little, had Ceddy been in Syracuse for the entirety of the 2012-2013 season, we'd have a much more complete look at Ceddy's true ability as a number three in an organization. After he was traded to the Tampa Bay organization, Ceddy played in 14 regular season games with Syracuse. He went 8-5-1-1 and had a 2.12 GAA and a .918 SV%. Not bad, but it was during the Calder Cup playoffs that Ceddy really started to shine.
To put it bluntly, Ceddy completely rewrote the Crunch's postseason record book. He was a major part of the Crunch getting to the Calder Cup final for the first time ever. He played in all 18 of the Crunch's playoff games. He had 13 wins, and 3 of those wins were shutouts. When the pressure poured on, Ceddy fought back all the harder. He was a solid rock, and he always gave the Crunch a chance to win.
Syracuse accomplished a lot with Ceddy in net, and Crunch fans will always remember him for that. He's never refused an interview or an autograph request. He's a class act through and through, and the Rangers organization is lucky to have him."
If nothing else it sounds like Desjardins is a great guy to have in the locker room with the kids playing with the Wolf Pack. But I seriously doubt that great character is all he will bring to Hartford. Desjardins may be coming off of a bit of a down year, but he has shown that he can win at the AHL level and, if the wheels fall off for the Rangers, he is exactly the kind of guy you'd hope to have as the team's third-string goaltender. Desjardins is nothing spectacular but very solid and steady for what he is; a starting AHL goaltender.
Something that went under the radar a bit was the Rangers recently re-signing Jason Missiaen to a one-year, two way deal. Missiaen, as most of you know, is a giant in the net. At 6'8" the 24 year-old goaltender had a rocky 2013-14 campaign splitting time between the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Greenville Road Warriors in the ECHL. Not surprisingly, Missiaen's stats in the ECHL were worlds better than his numbers were in the 14 games he played with the Wolf Pack. There is not much more to say about Missiaen other than the fact that he's big, he's interesting, and he's likely never going to be in the NHL. With all that being said, he's another horse in the stable, and has a huge body that moves much better than he should.
The only other goaltender under contract with the Rangers (note: Halverson and Shestyorkin are not under contract) is 20 year-old Mackenzie Skapski. The Rangers took Skapski in the 6th round of last year's draft. Skapski has good size and had a solid year last year in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice, posting a .916 SV% and a 2.70 GAA in his first crack at being a starting goaltender. Those aren't numbers to salivate over, by any means, but Skapski is another interesting guy in the system, mostly because no one is quite sure what he's capable of. Whatever happens with him, I'm forever dreaming of hearing, "SAVE BY SKAPSKI!" The Rangers are currently in a position to watch UFAs David LeNeveu and Scott Stajcer walk. Stajcer is still just 23 years-old and it is interesting that the club brought Missiaen back and is letting Stajcer walk, but it probably came down to the fact that they just needed a body at the minor league-level and they were more intrigued by Missiaen's size and movement.
When Martin Biron got lit-up by the San Jose Sharks and eventually retired after clearing waivers, Cam Talbot became the Rangers' back-up goaltender. We all know what happened after that. Cam Talbot became the most promising Rangers rookie goaltender since Henrik Lundqvist and was even stealing starts from Hank at one point. It was a scary thing to have David LeNeveu as Lundqvist's backup in the Stanley Cup Final. Honestly, it is only a slightly less scary scenario to have Desjardins as the projected third-string goaltender but I'd take him over LeNeveu any day.
So what did we see from the Rangers management after it was clear that the Rangers needed more goaltending depth? We saw them go after goalies in the draft and pick up a solid AHL goaltender in free agency. They addressed a serious organizational need. Hopefully Desjardins serves as a good placeholder for the next two seasons until one of the kids is ready to take the starting job at of the Wolf Pack. Almost all successful NHL goalies have success in the AHL first. There are a few noteworthy exceptions (most of them being European imports), but having young guys perform well in the AHL is important. Just because Lundqvist is the guaranteed starter in New York for the better part of the next decade doesn't mean that the club shouldn't start looking for options down the road, and there are no better options than the guys we can develop ourselves. Goalies take a long time to develop. It's going to be interesting to see if any of these kids turns out to be something special. Who do you have your eye on?
Let's go Rangers.