Rangers Move on from All-Time Legend

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Henrik Lundqvist (above) is beloved by Rangers fans. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

While expected, Wednesday was a sad day for Rangers fans across the country as the team officially bought out the final year of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s contract, eliminating his $8.5 million cap hit. His final game in blue was a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in game 2 of the qualifying round, but that misrepresents the impenetrable mark he has left on the franchise over the past 15 years. 

Lundqvist broke into the league in 2005, five years after being drafted 205th overall in the seventh round. He made his debut at 23-years-old on Oct. 8, 2005 against New Jersey, stopping 24 shots in a 3-2 overtime defeat. However, it was clear from that day on that he was the goaltender of not only the future but of the present. He went on to break the franchise record for wins by a rookie (30), be one of the top five league-wide in GAA and Sv%and become a finalist for the Vezina trophy. 

The accolades did not stop there. He was the starting goalie for the gold medal-winning Sweden team in the 2006 Olympics, and he won the Vezina in 2012 with 39 wins and a 1.97 GAA across 62 games. His many amazing playoff performances include the ones that won the Rangers the Eastern Conference in 2014. His playoff performances are the ones that stick out when remembering his greatness. His many game 7 heroics will be his crowning achievements on his march to Toronto, as soon as he is eligible. 

He departs 34th Street as the franchise’s greatest goalie, and arguably their greatest player. He leads the goaltender franchise ranks in games played (887 to Mike Richter’s 666), and wins (459 to Richter’s 301). Despite never winning the Stanley Cup like Richter did, Lundqvist provided the skill, tenure and toughness that any franchise asks from their goaltender. He rarely missed a game, playing over 60 games nine times in his 15-year career. 

Now that his Rangers career is over, it is time to speculate where he might lace up next season. There are a lot of directions that he could go, whether it be a role player on a Cup-caliber team or a backup and tutor to an up-and-coming star goalie. One team that meets both of those criteria is the St. Louis Blues. Although they are strapped for cap space and might not be able to afford him, Jake Allen was traded to Montreal and Jordan Binnington looked shaky in the playoffs this year, going 0-5 just one year after the amazing playoff run. St. Louis would be a great way to meet both of those potential desires for Lundqvist. The Flyers would be another team to meet both criteria, but it is impossible to believe he would go to Philly after 15 years in New York. Also, the Vancouver Canucks have a lot of players to resign this offseason, and it is possible Jacob Markstrom will leave for another starting job. Young stud Thatcher Demko was outstanding in the playoffs, and Lundqvist could help him develop and lead a team through a tough Western Conference. 

Regardless of where Henrik Lundqvist goes, he will always be a New York Ranger. Congratulations to Henrik on a fantastic career with New York.