By: Chris Boyle
Oscar Lindberg is a Vegas Golden Knight.
While the Rangers lost a player who showed plenty of promise, they didn’t see enough of Lindberg in a role where they could truly discover his offensive potential. During his time with the Blueshirts, Lindberg showed bursts of creativity when he was on the ice.
Lindberg showed an ability to get to holes in the defense as well as create pre-shot movement, but struggled to carry the offense when he wasn’t surrounded by offensive talent. While a valuable player who carried almost a 50% expected goal ratio at even strength, Lindberg is already into his prime and his potential may not have been fully recognized in New York.
Looking at his metrics, you can see that he provided depth value, but isn’t likely to be a devastating loss for the Rangers moving forward. For Vegas, it is understandable why they would want to take a gamble on a player with offensive upside. He is still young and can improve upon his current NHL totals if provided with high-end linemates.
[Carpiniello: Rangers Move On After Losing Lindberg]
But Vegas didn’t grab the guy with the highest upside that the Rangers made available. That was Antti Raanta. While some may undervalue Raanta because of the assumptions on the value of a backup goaltender, he like Cam Talbot before him, has provided way more than your typical backup performance while Lundqvist has been resting or injured.
While the Knights likely grabbed Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to become their face of the franchise and meet the cap floor, he is a replacement level goaltender at this point in his career. I believe that Raanta would have been a better gamble than Calvin Pickard and Jean-Francoiss Berube.
When you are picking as an expansion team, the focus should be on identifying talent with the possibility of high upside. Players whose underlying numbers can provide you insight into possible hidden elite performance. While Lindberg is a defensible pick, I believe Raanta would have been a better gamble. At worst, you get a cheap league average goaltender. At best, you get a cheap high-end starter who you can probably lock-in long term at a good value.
Anybody who has followed the Rangers over the last two seasons understands the type of high-end quality shots they often surrender in their own end. Raanta has faced only 80% with clear sight and is exposed routinely to dangerous chances, yet has remained dominant. The issue is a mere sample size, but it is also exactly the reason why he could have been acquired so cheaply on Wednesday.
The Vegas Knights loss is the Rangers gain next season. At $1M, Raanta has a ton of value for the Rangers in 2017-18. There is no question that the Rangers need to Lundqvist’s workload to maintain peak performance. If Raanta continues to perform at this level, the Rangers are in a position to get dominant goaltending while they continue to build the defense with another year to increase the sample on which to assess Raanta.