New York Rangers: In defense of Ondrej Pavelec

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 02: Ondrej Pavelec
DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 02: Ondrej Pavelec /

The New York Rangers signed goaltender Ondrej Pavelec at the beginning of free agency. Many were disappointed with this signing, but Pavelec is not all that bad. 

Ondrej Pavelec is a reclamation project, to put things lightly. Pavelec, who turns 30 in August, is coming off the worst season of his career with the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers. After being demoted to Manitoba Moose in October, Pavelec went 8-7-2 in 18 games played with

Pavelec, who turns 30 in August, is coming off the worst season of his career with the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise. After being demoted to the Manitoba Moose in October, Pavelec went 8-7-2 in 18 games played with a 2.78 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.

After being called up to the Jets in January, Pavelec went 4-4-0 in 8 games played with a 3.55 goals allowed average, and an .888 save percentage. The New York Rangers signed him to a one-year contract worth $1.3 million.

Pavelec, even in limited action, has shown himself to be an unreliable goaltender. Over his career, he has a paltry .907 save percentage and a 2.87 goals allowed average. Even so, he still has potential to be a solid backup goaltender.

With the Rangers, Pavelec is going to have a better goaltending mentor in Benoit Allaire, and a better defensive group in front of him to suppress shots.

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Benoit’s Touch

Benoit Allaire can turn any player into a starting caliber goaltender. He’s been the Rangers goaltending coach since 2004, coinciding with the rise of Henrik Lundqvist. Much of Lundqvist’s development has been credited to Allaire, who mentored Lundqvist into the franchise goaltender he is today.

Allaire hasn’t only had success with Lundqvist, however.

In the past few seasons, Allaire has turned Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta into starting goaltenders. Talbot filled in extensively for Lundqvist during an injury in the 14-15 season, going 17-3-4 over the stretch with a 2.21 GAA and .926 save percentage. Talbot is now a starting goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers.

Antti Raanta also benefitted from Allaire’s mentorship. In 55 games for the Rangers, Raanta is 27-14-4 with a 2.26 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He also started 44 of the 55 games he played, which increased his trade value. Raanta was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, and will presumably be their starting goaltender next season.

Allaire can break Pavelec out of his slump. Pavelec has struggled to be the number one goaltender in Winnipeg for years. This was mainly due to a lack of other options. However, with the Rangers, Pavelec will be definitively in the backup role. Without needing to worry about starting, Allaire can bring Pavelec back to the basics, and try to get the 30-year-old goaltender back on track.

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New Defense, No Problem

The Rangers have made some great acquisitions on the blueline this offseason. They finally added a top pair defensive partner for captain Ryan McDonagh in Kevin Shattenkirk, they re-signed Brendan Smith and they acquired Anthony Deangelo in the Antti Raanta trade.

Part of Ondrej Pavelec’s struggle was the defensive unit playing in front of him. Often fronted by Dustin Byfuglien in recent years, the struggling Winnipeg Jets have never had the cream of the crop to protect Pavelec from an onslaught of shots.

While Pavelec recently played in front of somewhat elite skill with Jacob Trouba in the mix, he still hasn’t played with a great defensive unit.

The Rangers arguably have the best top four defensemen in the Metropolitan Division with the addition of Shattenkirk and departure of Girardi and any goaltender could be great behind them. Not only will Pavelec benefit from the Rangers’ defensive makeover, but Lundqvist will as well.

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In defense of Pavelec, the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise has been a tire fire of an organization since its inception. Pavelec’s role will never be in question with Lundqvist healthy, and he will have world class coaches to guide him. Pavelec isn’t that bad of a signing, because he’s at least salvageable.