Hartnett: Igor Shesterkin Should Be Rangers' Starting Goalie

24-Year-Old Should Replace Henrik Lundqvist

Sean Hartnett
February 10, 2020 - 1:25 pm

It only took six games for Igor Shesterkin to establish himself as the Rangers’ best option between the pipes. It’s now become clear that the Rangers should abandon any desire to continue a three-goalie rotation – because the starter’s net should belong to the 24-year-old Moscow native.

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On Sunday, the rookie goaltender enthralled 17,237 spectators at Madison Square Garden with his steely and acrobatic displays. In all, he saved 42 of 43 shots – coming within a whisker of sealing a first career shutout in a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Though Shesterkin fell short of a shutout, his 5-1-0, 2.34 goals-against average and .933 save percentage start to NHL life suggests that he’ll be blanking opponents in no time.

From this point on, there shouldn’t be any hesitation from David Quinn and the coaching staff to entrust Shesterkin with the bulk of starts. The more Shesterkin is able to gain experience from today through April, the sooner the Rangers can become a contending hockey club.

If that means trading Alexandar Georgiev, so be it. If that means relegating 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist to a $8.5 million backup role, so be it.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during a break in action in the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2005, a 23-year-old Lundqvist stole the starter’s net from veteran Kevin Weekes and didn’t look back. Now, Shesterkin has demonstrated that he’s capable of sliding into the leading role and carrying this club on his back.

No matter the sport, the older guys can only stave off promising youngsters for so long. Mickey Mantle replaced Joe DiMaggio as the Yankees centerfielder. Tim Duncan was the San Antonio Spurs’ heir apparent to David Robinson. Aaron Rodgers usurped Brett Favre as the Green Bay Packers signal-caller.

Speaking of Favre and his time with the Packers, 17 quarterbacks backed him up over his 16-year stint in Green Bay. Can you name all the goaltenders who have backed up Lundqvist over 15 seasons?

The answer is 15. Here goes: Weekes, Chris Holt, Steve Valiquette, Chad Johnson, Matt Zaba, Alex Auld, Martin Biron, Cam Talbot, Mackenzie Skapski, Antti Raanta, Magnus Hellberg, Ondrej Pavelec, Brandon Halverson, Georgiev and Shesterkin.

Keeping up with the football comparisons, it kind of makes you wonder if Lundqvist will end his career as a one-franchise man. Joe Namath looked out of place in the blue and gold of the Los Angeles Rams. Seeing Joe Montana in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform took some getting used to. Hockey’s winningest goaltender, Martin Brodeur, closed out his career as a St. Louis Blue for just seven games.

Perhaps the only thing stranger than Lundqvist ending his career in another city would be Tom Brady playing somewhere other than New England. Yet, the one football player whom Lundqvist does not want to be compared to is Dan Marino – a dominant one-team figure who never tasted championship glory.

Lundqvist’s idol Dominik Hasek eventually joined up with Detroit Red Wings to fulfill his Stanley Cup ambitions. “The Dominator” twice raised Lord Stanley in Motown. Perhaps, Lundqvist will follow Hasek’s path by chasing after a Stanley Cup ring in a different city. Or maybe, Lundqvist will remain a lifetime Ranger and mentor his apprentice.

The future of the Rangers’ formerly immovable goaltender will soon require clarification – because it’s Shesterkin’s net now.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey