The complicated situation that is henrik lundqvist
Published by Zach Nicolaides, May 5th 2020
With the New York Rangers rolling with three goaltenders during the 2019-2020 season, there's going to be an odd man out. That man was Henrik Lundqvist. Young talents Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin proved themselves as starting-caliber goalies night in and night out. This left Lundqvist in a tough spot that he's not too familiar with. That spot is the bench.
Since 2006, Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone of the Rangers franchise. He took the Rangers to the playoffs 11 times in his 14-year career. That included 2 Eastern Conference appearances and a Stanley Cup Final appearance. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2012 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. He is also the Rangers all-time leader in wins with 459. With all that being said, a King eventually loses his throne.
With Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev taking over the crease, what do the Rangers do with Henrik Lundqvist? There are many options. He has one year left on his contract worth 8.5 million per year. If the Rangers decide to wait out his contract, that will force them to trade Georgiev. Georgiev is a restricted free agent this summer and will be traded if Lundqvist isn't moved. How do we move him?
Retirement probably won't happen simply because he's in good health and has no reason to stop playing and terminate another 8.5 million. A trade could only go through if Lundqvist allows it due to a NTC in his contract. He has his heart set on being a Ranger and only a Ranger, so a trade is unlikely. He had his chance to go to a Cup contender when the rebuild commenced, but the King stood his ground and stayed loyal. All of this leads me to believe that a buyout is the only option. If Lundqvist is bought out, that roster spot is wide open for Georgiev to join Shesterkin for a young talented tandem set to bring success between the pipes. Georgiev would then sign a 2-3 year extension hypothetically.
Obviously, for sentimental reasons, this will be a challenging way for a legend's career to conclude. An old teammate of Lundqvist Mats Zuccarello said in a statement to Norwegian media, "Did anyone ever think this would happen to Henrik Lundqvist? No one! It's absolutely upsetting that he is being treated that way." This was in regards to Lundqvist's limited playing time this past year.
In the Ranger's last 19 games, Lundqvist had one start. Lundqvist registered ten wins, 12 losses, and three overtime losses this season. He put up numbers that are way below his standards with a 3.16 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
Although it is upsetting to think about, it is a business. Sentiment can't change that. If Lundqvist can go on and join a cup contender to get his last shot at the ultimate goal, that would be what's best for the Swedish netminder and what's best for the New York Rangers moving forward into their bright future.