Dustin Tokarski

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Hartnett: Tokarski Latest Player Added To Backup Goalie Competition

Former Canadian Will Compete With Georgiev, Mazanec To Play Behind Lundqvist

Sean Hartnett
August 21, 2018 - 9:02 am
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The Rangers added healthy competition at backup goaltender by signing free agent Dustin Tokarski to a one-year contract on Monday.

Tokarski, Alexandar Georgiev and Marek Mazanec will vie this preseason to back up franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. In recent years, the Rangers have developed Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta into gems that would eventually take over as no. 1 netminders for other organizations.

The Rangers lean heavily on the advice and knowledge of renowned goaltending coach Benoit Allaire. His influence helped propel Talbot and Raanta to the next level. Late last season, Georgiev appeared in 10 games while posting a 4-4-1 record, 3.15 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Keep in mind, Georgiev was playing behind an inexperienced, makeshift Rangers’ defense. Kevin Shattenkirk’s season ended due to knee surgery, Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden exited The Garden at the trade deadline, while rookies Neal Pionk and John Gilmour were learning on the fly.

Impressively, Georgiev played strongly under these circumstances. It remains to be seen whether his NHL cameo was a sign of things to come. That’s why it was important for the Rangers to identify an alternative backup plan in Tokarski.

Rangers fans will remember how well Tokarski fared in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final after Carey Price’s playoffs ended prematurely because of a Game 1 collision with Chris Kreider. The Rangers eliminated the Habs, but Tokarski finished the 2014 playoffs with a 2-3 record, 2.60 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

>>MORE: Rangers Sign Goalie Tokarski To 1-Year Deal

Overall, Tokarski has recorded a 27-10-12 record, 2.84 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 34 career regular season games. He spent all of last season with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, going 20-8-7 with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 39 games. The 28-year-old netminder has only appeared in one regular season game since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Eventually, highly-regarded KHL prospect Igor Shestyorkin will have his opportunity to stake his claim at the NHL level. Shestyorkin is thriving in Russia’s top league for SKA St. Petersburgh, with back-to-back seasons of above .933 save percentage play. The 22-year-old is expected to one day become the Rangers’ no. 1 goaltender and perhaps could become a franchise netminder in his own right.

For now, the Rangers will need to identify a stopgap solution in the form of Tokarski, Georgiev or Mazanec. Lundqvist appeared in 63 games last season and will turn 37 in March. It’s possible that Lundqvist’s workload could be trimmed this season, especially if a capable backup emerges.

It’s been awhile since Tokarski and Mazanec saw consistent NHL action. You would have to look back to the 2014-15 season when Tokarski appeared in 17 games for Montreal. Mazanec appeared in 25 games in his 2013-14 rookie season with the Nashville Predators. Since then, he has only played in six NHL games. Mazanec split last season with Bratislava Slovan and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

It’s hard to say which of the trio has the edge to win the backup goaltender role. This is an open competition that will be settled in September’s training camp and the preseason.

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