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Does Hellberg leaving for the KHL create problems for the Rangers?

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NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it Swedish goaltender Magnus Hellberg has signed in the KHL with Kunlun Red Star.

Hellberg enjoyed the lion’s share of the starts in the AHL last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He posted a .903 save percentage and a 2.95 goals against average to go with a 12-15-5 record. Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they were significantly better than those posted by rookie Brandon Halverson.

Losing Hellberg isn’t a devastating blow in terms of talent lost, but it could be a costly loss for the Rangers in regards to the team’s goaltending pipeline - especially for the 2017-18 season.

With Hellberg now out of the picture the Rangers have an interesting situation developing. Antti Raanta is sure to be left exposed in the expansion draft and he is one of the most attractive goaltenders available to the Golden Knights. If Las Vegas takes Raanta the Rangers hunt for a new back-up goaltender will have to begin in earnest.

The options who already in-house (behind Henrik Lundqvist and Raanta) are hardly inspiring.

  • Chris Nell, 22-years-old
  • Brandon Halverson, 21-years-old
  • Mackenzie Skapski, 22-years-old (pending RFA)

Halverson needs more seasoning, Skapski’s stock plummeted this year (.903 save percentage in ECHL after poor start in Hartford) and Nell has just four professional (AHL) games under his belt. The Rangers signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green in late March. It’s pretty clear that the Rangers will need to find a short-term solution if Raanta ends up in the desert.

Our own Kevin Power took a look at some compelling options for Lundqvist’s next understudy two weeks ago. All of a sudden those names are sounding a lot more desirable.

The UFA goaltending market is sure to be something of a mess because of the expansion draft. The Rangers aren’t the only team that could soon be looking for a quick fix in free agency. And Jeff Gorton might have to out-bid opponents given the dearth of options currently in the system.