With the possibility of the Rangers selling for the first time in forever coming more acutely possible, the focus from the fan base has understandably turned to hypothetical returns for the teams’ more attractive trade chips. Naturally, the logical discussions (many of which have been examined in this space) involve Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and Mats Zuccarello. One target that a fairly vocal minority of the fan base has consistently brough up has been, oddly enough, Henrik Lundqvist.
Now, the reasons why Hank’s detractors (or trade advocates) feel moving the King would be a prudent move aren’t all that far-fetched. He takes up a significant amount of cap space. His overall performance has delayed a (probably necessary) rebuild longer than it should have taken. The organization clearly wants to win as long as they have a generational talent on the roster, etc., etc. These are valid opinions.
The problem with the concept is that not only are goalie trade returns historically putrid, but a trade structured like this is literally unprecedented since the last lockout. Goaltenders tend to get traded in three scenarios: 1) they are a proven backup getting a shot at a start job (e.g., Cory Schneider, Cam Talbot, Martin Jones, Scott Darling, Antti Raanta, etc.) 2) they are pending UFA’s (e.g., Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halak, Devan Dubnyk, etc.) 3) they are traded for each other as smaller parts in a bigger deal. Only Roberto Luongo has been a star goalie traded with multiple years on his contract during this era.
Luongo was a special case. He was a legacy player in Florida who had a decaying relationship with the organization and fan base in Vancouver. His contract was largely viewed as an albatross (which runs for 4 (!) more seasons after this one) and his expected performance was a negative relative to his deal. Lundqvist on the otherhand, while expensive, is still performing at a high level, and his contact runs for three more seasons, finishing up when Lundqvist is only a year older than Luongo is now.
Understandably, Luongo was traded for basically peanuts because of his previous relationship with the Panthers. Beyond this, there are basically no trade comparables for Hank. Goalies are typically developed, signed or traded for much earlier in their careers.
The biggest hurdle to any Lundqvist deal is easily his NTC. Hank is a brand in NYC, with much of his off-ice value tied up in this market. He is a legacy player who has the rare opportunity to play his entire career in one city, and a marquee city, at that. Now, Hank would be a pretty clear upgrade on probably 25 teams’ current goaltenders, but context is important. Many teams have goaltenders that they either just acquired, are more youthful with solid upside, or entrenched veteran starters that teams won’t give up a haul for Lundqvist just to displace.
Looking around the league, the only teams that have a no-doubt opening in net (and a willingness to upgrade) are teams that are, understandably, toward the bottom of the league. Could anyone really see Hank waiving his NTC to head to Buffalo, Ottawa or Vancouver?
The next hurdle would be expected return. As a GM, you are taking on a hefty contract in the 3.5 year, almost $30 million commitment to a soon-to-be 36 year-old goaltender. The Rangers made their bed with Lundqvist and the fan base was fine with giving him that contract to keep him in NYC for the remainder of his career. There is serious risk for an outside GM to gut his farm system to acquire the same situation. So, for the privilege of taking this risk, how much are you willing to part with?
When you look at what other goaltenders fetch in trades, the answer is not much. By far the most valuable goaltending assets are those whose best years are ostensibly in front of them, not behind. Even then, they typically fetch a combination of 2nd and 3rd round draft choices, with the occasional first rounder for perceived top-end talent (Varlamov, Jones, etc.).
So, I pose this question to those advocating trading Hank. Would you accept two 2nd round picks, a 3rd and a depth player for your franchise goaltender? Me either. That is the going rate. At the end of the day, Hank is far more valuable to the Rangers than anything they would receive in a trade. He still has several good years left in him, and when he starts to falter, he can be a hall of fame mentor to Igor Shestyorkin as he transitions to the North American game.
It’s really not fair for me to be able to dominate the article with my opinions, is it? How about we hear yours. Do you think the Rangers should be looking to trade Hank in any deadline sell-off? Sound off in the comments and vote in the poll below.