Business of HockeyGoaltending

It’s time for Henrik Lundqvist to accept a trade


There was a time in the late-90’s/early 2000’s that I really didn’t watch NHL hockey.  It could have been because I was in college at the time and had more interest in playing than watching.  It could have been because Glen Sather insisted on signing every over the hill, washed up veteran to a massive underperforming contract.  Who’s to say, really?  Either way, after lock-out II (I think? There are too many to keep track of now) I really only reengaged with the Rangers due to the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist.

Over the year next decade plus, Lundqvist was an absolute force in net, collecting Vezina nominations and bringing the club closer to the ultimate prize than any time since that fabled 1994 season. Lundqvist is a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest goaltender in the history of the New York Rangers franchise (before you start, I put on pads because of Mike Richter).  Given where Lundqvist is in his career and the Rangers are in the context of their rebuild, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: it’s time for Lundqvist to accept a trade.

I know there have been those on this site who have advocated for a Lundqvist trade for quite a while.  However, this isn’t for cap space or moving on from a declining asset.  This is about an only-now symbiotic benefit for both franchise and player.  Allow me to explain a little further. Up until very recently, I would have been opposed to this concept.

With the decision in February of 2018 to rebuild a lagging franchise, there was some cautious optimism about the turn time to contention, with some concern about how that timeframe lined up with Lundqvist’s contract.  At the time, there was 3.5 seasons left on his deal.  Depending on how the fire sale went, it was possible the team would be ready to contend in the last year or two of his contract.  Also, the writing was on the wall with Igor Shesterkin tearing up the KHL, and it was generally seen as a positive that Lundqvist could be there to mentor the young Russian before handing over the reins.

Fast forward to the present, Lundqvist has a year and change remaining on his contract and it has become abundantly clear that this team won’t be proper contenders before the expiration of that contract.  Additionally, Shesterkin is, predictably, tearing up the AHL and over the last few seasons, Alexandar Georgiev has emerged as a trade asset with legitimate value.

For Shesterkin, he finds himself in a similar spot to Lundqvist at the beginning of his career.  The organization is attempting to usher in the next wave of a competitive core.  Expectations are low and there would be little pressure on a young man learning the NHL on the fly.  The biggest difference is that Kevin Weekes was the only thing standing in Lundqvist’s way.  Shesterkin, on the other hand, is being blocked by a franchise great who is beloved by the city and the (rational) fanbase.

While Shesterkin’s development path should certainly be a priority, the biggest one is the aforementioned timing.  Heading into this season, 6 of the Rangers top 10 prospects were defensemen, who are lagging behind the forwards in arrival schedule.  The offense is actually progressing in its development, ranking 9th in goals per game in the NHL so far this season.  The defense, however, is a different story.

Sure, Adam Fox is providing immediate value and Jacob Trouba has been as advertised, but we still have 2 more years of Marc Staal on the books, Brady Skjei continues to struggle and the biggest non-Fox prospects at the NHL level  (Hajek, Rykov, Lindgren) do not project to be impact talent.  The marquee defense prospects, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundqvist, Joey Keane, etc.) are all at least a year away, and it makes no sense for the organization to overpay at the deadline or at the Draft for veteran reinforcements with these guys en route.

Even if all of the top defensive prospects were on the NHL roster next year, they wouldn’t be guaranteed to acclimate as effectively as Fox.  I think you would have to reasonably give them at least a season of growing pains before counting on their upside.  Additionally, you have to cycle through guys like Ryan Strome, get some additional draft picks, look for more development from center prospects, fire David Quinn and his whole staff, etc., before you can expect true contention.  Raise your hand if you think that is happening in the next 18 months.

Now, let’s take a look at it from Lundqvist’s perspective.  He is in a truly challenging position.  From what I have seen of him this season, he seems to have a lot of good hockey left in him.  The problem, obviously, is when the Rangers will be ready to play good hockey again, Lundqvist probably won’t be a starting caliber goalie for a Stanley Cup contender.

Off the ice, his personal brand is inextricably tied to NYC.  His celebrity, his charity work, the proximity to Sweden and even his nickname are rooted in his elite status with a historic organization. In an era where so few professional athletes spend their entire career with one organization, is it worth it to Lundqvist to tarnish that chasing a far-from-guaranteed chance at glory for a less important organization?

Obviously, that is a personal decision for Lundqvist to make, but I know that I would be disappointed to see his career end without a Stanley Cup.   He is currently one of the greatest athletes never to win a championship and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of that tunnel in New York.

So, what are the most logical destinations? Obviously, injuries and poor performance can influence these things, but to me, the two most applicable landing spots are San Jose and Colorado.   Neither team is getting much from their goaltenders at the moment and both organizations are in the Western Conference, which would presumably be a requirement to trade Lundqvist to begin with. San Jose would require some financial maneuvering, but Colorado has plenty of cap space.

Hank has a full-NTC so he can dictate if and where he wants to go.  Colorado is a young team on the upswing while San Jose is trying to make the most of a closing window. Other teams could certainly factor in as the season goes along.

Whether at the deadline or in the offseason, I think the time has come for Lundqvist to seek greener pastures competitively as the Rangers continue their rebuild.  Maybe when his contract expires, he would want to come home to back up Shesterkin, a la Gigi Buffon with Juventus.  Who knows?  Either way, I think the trade assets, extra cap space and opportunities for Shesterkin line up well with the opportunity for Lundqvist to chase that elusive Cup.  As much as I would hate to see Hank in another uniform, I think the time has come to make a trade the right move for all parties involved.

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  • Good morning all.

    This topic comes up every year, and it’s the same answer, with Hank having a full NMC: He will not leave the Rangers and NYC. He just won’t.

    It’s obvious that the Rangers are not winning the Cup in the next 2 years, this one and next season, so it’s also obvious that Hank doesn’t care about that, or he would have left after Feb, 2018, after “the letter” to the fans.

    I am a huge Hank fan but him getting frustrated during games is his own doing. He chose to stay and he knows what he signed up for.

    Georgie will be the odd goalie out IMO. Shesty coming and there are others behind him too.

    • I hate to rec Tony on any site.

      This was obviously click bait, maybe a post hang over, hair of the dog kinda post.

    • Why does this nonsense come up time after time? He’s not going anywhere, he’s playing excellent hockey, and he is still undoubtedly the face of the franchise and the leader of the team. Enough already.

      • Stranger things have happened, Sittoo. If Marty St Louis can be suddenly traded at his career’s end, I would think it could happen to anyone. I think winning a Cup would be enough for Henrik to walk away one year early as well.

        Henrik is a super-competitive individual, finishing his career on a team that (as ever) is lucky to have him—at what point does he say to himself “McDavid, Draisaitl, and Lundqvist sounds a lot better than Strome, McKegg, and Lundqvist”? In so many ways right now, this outcome would benefit Henrik, the team that gets him, as well as the Rangers.

        • Marty wanted to be traded, that’s a big difference here.

          Also your analogy is way off you name Oilers best and the Rangers midland players. Doesn’t make any sense or help your argument.

          • Oh, and while we’re on the subject of clarity—what is a “midland” player?

            I’m pretty sure you meant middling, but I’ll point it out anyway, since it’s the type of thing you just did.

          • Sorry, didn’t get the joke. Also sorry my typing skills are not superior and autocorrect sometimes thinks it knows better.

          • One act does not preclude the other. I cited Marty as a traded legend because like Henrik, he’s a Hall of Famer who is emblematic of his franchise. And both player and team denied for six months that there was anything wrong with their situation, in Tampa and Marty’s case.

            Given Henrik’s greatness as a Ranger, I’d be happy for him if he won the Cup with another team…out west. One thing I’ve always loved about Henrik is how much he cares about winning, and how much it kills him to lose. Would love to see him go out a champ, not as a memento of greatness for a franchise that couldn’t quite get a Cup win accomplished during Henrik’s time here.

      • something to talk about. he’s retiring a Ranger. being a lifelong Ranger, from draft to retirement is important to him.

    • I don’t see Hank agreeing to leave either. His frustration level seems to be down a bit from previous seasons. I have only seen one of those icy gIares 🙂 this season. I think he is starting to understand that this is the way it is going to be.

      He should be the one lobbying to get rid of that dog of a defense coach Ruff…..

      • I get the feeling that hockey players are more “tolerant” of their team’s situations or they just do not complain outwardly, meaning in the public eye.

        • …and that’s the reason I love hockey, for the most part, they are all a great bunch of guys! Reminds me of the people I worked with in my career and now are proud to call friends.

          • They don’t publicize their displeasure as much, sort of like an industry “code.”

  • Justin – just stop the hyperbole. The face of the franchise isn’t being traded. Stop making your wishes a story.

  • Trades not happening, this is just very wishful thinking. Hank will never waive his NTC, even if it is best for the organization and Hank.

  • Just as the posts above by Tony, CF, and Da Rev, nothing will ever happen until Hank decides to move on. I could see Hank be the next Rod Gilbert, working in the PR department for the next thirty years at least. Things must be slow to bring up this topic again, but so be it. Let’s continue winning, while developing the kids to be cup winners, with Igor in net down the road!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Justin—please do not ever compare a 14-year NHL veteran to any athlete in the following sports:

    or soccer

    Thanks—and I agree with your article’s mainpoint otherwise. There’s at least 2-3 teams out west (Sharks, Oilers, Flames) that would be vastly improved with Hank in net. But it’s unlikely at best—the trade would have to occur at the deadline to make the $$$ work, and Hank would likely have to promise retirement to not blow up a new team’s cap next season. All in all, I think Hank suffers through the losing and finishes as a Ranger.

  • Best case scenario, IMO:
    1. Shesty comes up (very) soon stays awhile.
    2. Georgie goes down awhile.
    3. Reverse 1 and 2 until the deadline.
    4. Trade Georgie, Shesty splits rest of season with Hank.
    5. In 20-21 Shesty plays 50 games, Hank 30.
    6. Hank retires a great and exalted Ranger.

    • Yep – That is the Hartford Shuttle that I have been advocating for a long time. It is really the only way that this can work. But Georgiev is close to the number of games he can play before his waiver-exemption is gone.

      This is really about Igor – not Hank…

  • This is a hard article to read! What’s best for the club may not be horrible for Henrik though. I think Georgie is going to be dealt, opening up the correct succession for Igor “insert the obvious nickname title if he continues to be …”.
    Igor backing up (sharing) the net towards the end of this season and eventually taking the pipes next year just makes sense for the NY Rangers. Losing any possible trade value for Henrik does not help the club, once we are ok and see Igor being our future it will be easier to part ways (wonderfully) with our beloved king.

    I did not understand one thing you wrote “Jacob Trouba has been as advertised” – really? this was a mis-type right?

    I thought he was advertised as our PP QB that scores, plays with grit (all the time) and lifts other D-men up around him.
    did I mis read how he was advertised?

    “I put on pads because of Mike Richter” = awesome! just awesome… I watch the hallmark channel and one of the top actresses is married to one of the bures (it might be Pavel). every tie I see her I give thanks for MR!


    • So a little humor here so hold off on the thumbs.

      If Hank is the King and Igor, who is Russian, is next in line for the throne then he should be known as “The Czar”

      You heard it here first….

  • Yep, Hank’s not going anywhere unless HE decides to go. Make no mistake about it, Justin in 100% correct. If Hanks was traded to a contender it would benefit the Rangers. We’d receive pick(s) and/or prospect(s) or some combination of the two. As far as the team who trades for Hank, I’m sure we’d have to retain some salary. At this point in our rebuild, that would be acceptable.
    I played baseball and football from an early age up to and including college before I enlisted in the Marines. I never had a coach who advocated that just participating was the goal. On the contrary, ALL of my coaches stressed being competitive with the only goal, was to win a championship.
    So Hank a sure Hall of Famer, must have that desire to win the Stanley Cup. He’s not doing that here Period. Hank is the face of the NY Rangers. It’s not unheard of the ‘face of the franchise’ to consent to go to a contender to allow that player to achieve his goal of winning a championship.
    Most recently, Ray Bourque arguably if not the face of the Bruins at that time, close to it, consented to a trade to Colorado and did get his name on The Stanley Cup. Classy move by both the Bruins, the Avalanche.
    Hank says he’s loyal to the Rangers. One would have to take him at his word that his loyalty overrides his competitive desire to win the ultimate prize. Hank obviously loves the big NY Stage. He has said so himself.
    I’d love to see Hank go to a contender and have a chance to put the crowning, no pun intended, end to a Hall of Fame career. Then as Walt suggested, come on back and be a part of the Ranger PR Dept. (Hopefully we will never part ways with our present goalie coach so that jobs isn’t an option!!!)
    So far this year Hank has played better than I thought he would. To date Hank has not hurt the team, but there is no question, Hank could help the Rangers and his star studded career by consenting to go to a contender and have a legit chance to get his name on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
    It’s not happening, but the concept is a valid one…………………..

  • I don’t feel as good about Trouba as I thought I was going to be at this point, as advertised he should be a bit better by now, but, this is why I think all the chatter about our defensive coaching has me wondering… still, FOX and ADA make it look like Trouba needs to step it up.

    Mike Richter! great guy to influence anyone! on and off the ice. I watch the hallmark channel (both for the wonderful shows and also to give my brain a nice break from all the horror shown on tv – I recommend it), one of the top actresses is married to one of the Bures (it may be Pavel) every time I see her I give thanks for Richter! YEAH BABY!

    Henrik can’t last forever and it might just work out that both the Rangers and Henrik make this situation work for the best!

    Georgie gets traded this season, allowing Igor to rise. Igor plays the official role of backup (his contract and eligibility may determine this) then next season he splits time with Henrik while taking the top position (then Henrik is moved for a return)
    Igor hopefully becomes Igor “the obvious nicename” and the Rangers win 3 cups within the next 6 years.

    Hallmark ending baby!

    • Since I am held hostage by my wife’s addiction to the Hallmark Channel on a daily basis, I can say with 100% certainty that the new face of Hallmark (sorry Lori Loughlin) Candice Cameron Bure is married to Pavel’s brother Valeri. He was even in one of the movies I saw last year.

  • Don’t disagree..he could follow the Ray Bourque example and go to Colorado,

    The team may also go with 3 goalies. They can make the dollars work. It’s not ideal but it would make things interesting.

    I doubt he will waive the NTC

  • Call up shesty and bench hank.

    I don’t like it when your franchise guy isn’t thinking about what’s best for the franchise but acting selfishly.

    He is literally holding the franchise hostage.

    Note I like hank but there is a time for everything to turn. Like the song.

      • Geo has been leaking oil……we have 4 games in 6 days starting this evening against the Minnesota Tame…..I expect to see Hank in the net tonight, wednesday, and friday against the Dirty Houlibruins……Geo on Saturday against the Swamprats from jersey.

  • Even if Lundquist waived his NMC and we retained 50% of his salary… What GM is his right mind is going to pay this guy $4.25 million dollars and if anyone here thinks a competent GM would that then you’re delusional. He’s not the same player he was 4-5 years ago. It just ain’t happening for a bunch of reasons.

    • Edmonton has Mike Smith as their #1; Calgary has Rittich & Talbot splitting time; San Jose has the worst goalie tandem in the NHL in Martin Jones and Aaron Dell. Any of their GMs would be smart to kick the tires on a trading deadline move for Hank, if they could get Hank to retire instead of play in the NHL for the 2020-21 season. They’d only be taking between 20-30% of his salary at most at that time of year.

  • Hank is not going anywhere.. It’s a moot point. Leadership will leave him alone and let his contract term out…..It’s a shame that Hank will not win a cup in what has been a spectacular career……Long Live the King!

  • Unless Hank retires, he will be on the roster again next year, barring any injury. The best way to get Hank off the roster is to win the whole damn thing, and let him walk away with a trophy. He is not waiving his NMC and will not leave $8M on the table.

  • I LOVE Hank as well, but I’m a little confused as to why he wouldn’t want to go win a cup with another team. Most players want that championship on their resume because many people will measure a player by championships. The only thing I have a problem with when it comes to Hank is how sometimes he shows up his players when a bad goal is given up. I can remember Stepan yelling at him to calm down along with Kreider and a few other guys over these 14 years. If it were me I would try and go somewhere else to win the cup! But I’m not Hank.

  • First…Henrik has repeated multiple times he wants to retire a Ranger…Full no trade

    Two…Richter is the greatest goalie the Rangers have had…see ring on finger, lol

    Three…Rangers can make playoffs this year…for sure next year n then anything can happen…remember accelerated rebuild….such negativity really n/or lack of hockey acumen. .

  • This didn’t seem like a particularly well thought out argument. The timing of Hank’s contract actually works out really well, IMO.

    Who better for Georgiev and Igor to learn from than the tandem of Lundqvist and Benoit Allaire? The same duo that you say put together a first ballot hall of fame career. Also, any one of the 3 could get hurt in any game, and then they’re in a tough spot. The team is layered with vets to take pressure off the young players. Panarin keeps the pressure off Kakko and others, Trouba keeps the pressure off the young d-men, and Hank keeps the pressure off the two young goalies. It’s a good balance to have for a rebuilding team.

    Henrik will stay as long as he wants to. He had the clause and the right to do that. The guy isn’t barking about playing time, and he could’ve left along with everyone else if he wanted to. I, for one, will be frustrated to see NYR fans turn their backs on him after all he’s done here.

  • Hank will never accept a trade anywhere, and its unfortunate that Georgie will be the sacrificial odd man out, because of Hank’s remaining 2 years and the possible fear of Shestyorkin pulling a “Kravstov”. Goalies rarely fetch a solid return and I think giving away Georgie for. 3rd rounder would be a mistake. I’d love to see a Shestyorkin/Georgie tandem in place for the future.

    I’m with the minority of fans, who think Hank is overrated but still treated like a hockey god. I’ve enjoyed his play in a lot of those playoffs against the Caps, Pens and various foes etc. He was an excellent goalie for a period of time. Unfortunately he never won the cup. But he is treated like Broadway Joe, Tom Seaver, Eli, and Paul O’Neil combined. Honestly he hasn’t been great for 5 years now. He flops down on almost every shot and opposing players have been shooting high on him for years with consistent success.

    It’s time for him to go, but he won’t leave. Even if it helps the team’s future. I think that mindset speaks volumes and should be noted.

  • The real problem here is that NHL teams are handcuffed by these NMC/NTC. They are forced to give them because other stupid GMs have done so, and if you don’t they will go to someone who will. The only way to deal with this issue is through the next CBA. It is not fair that all these big time players get huge contracts and NMC and the teams are stuck on improving their team with a trade. Management should make these decisions, not players. Players should play.

    Next CBA, I believe the NHL should stand firm in 2 areas, eliminating the NMC/NTC and max contract of 4 years.

    • I agree, but it will NEVER happen —- even if stranger things have happen. That said it wouldn’t be a bad goal to shoot for, but maybe temper your proposal to read 6 year max contract and a maximum NMC/NTC of 50% term. a modified NTC (like a 8-10 team list) could be instituted for the remaining years. At least it still provides some flexibility to the team while allowing players some measure of control.

        • Yeah, me too … but what could the NHL give up in return? The Olympics? lol I can’t see the NHLPA wanting to limit contracts in that way, especially with regard to the NMC.

          Another alternative would be to allow teams an easier buyout procedure with a diminished penalty to cap space and limiting it to the remaining term of the agreement (not doubling it). That would arguably benefit all teams — the richer teams because they can buyout mistakes and the poorer teams because there would probably be more free agents available come July.

          • an option, but when I said firm in the 2 areas, I was talking lockout. I know…but I think it needs to be done.

    • Joe

      I understand what your saying, but no one held a gun to Sather’s temple when Hank signed this contract. At the time Hank signed he was playing very well, and the team knew it wouldn’t last for his entire career. Don’t blame Hank for Sather’s blunder!!!!!!!!!!

      • Or Redden’s contract, or Holik’s contract, or Gomez’s contract, or Richard’s contract, or Girardi’s contract, or Staal’s contract, or….

      • No, no Walt. I’m not blaming Hank, I love that guy! What I am saying is the system is very broken. Teams make mistakes and cannot bounce back for years. It’s not good for the game. Tanto may be on to a solution but right now I want management to be able to build a team, cast off mistakes ( ala the NFL, cut a certain date and money and cap gone) and be able to give the fans what they want. A chance to win every year. You know, like the Yankees do all the time. I’m sorry we are in NY, but with that comes money, and they should be able to spend it. Problem is, this would lead to less teams in the NHL. Personally, I’m for that, Im a bit of a purist and old enough to remember when there were 21 teams and 16 made the playoffs. Always had a chance, it seemed, even though I’ve only seen it once. I’m rambling,… just saying that it is not as good as it was, and something needs to change, this game is too great!

        • Joe

          I understand what your saying, and there is a good argument for it. I would prefer that contracts not be guaranteed, and if they cut a player, he comes off the books, like the NFL. It’s owners like Jacobs in Boston, who are tight as heck, that set up this system, making it rough for teams with money able to spend it………..Oh well nothing we can do about it????????

  • Hank wants to stay in NY, his home where he has a life and career. I don’t think he cares about a championship at this point. He wants to retire in Rangers Blue.
    He isn’t leaving 8.5 million on the table since his contract, as most big ones in the NHL are highly front loaded. His actual salary is probably closer to 2 million with the cap hit of 8.5.

    Unfortunately we will probably see Geiorgiev traded by the deadline, maybe sooner if goalies keep getting hurt, and Igor taking his spot with Hank backing him up next year.

    Hank is not being selfish or anything like that. He is up holding his end of a contact that the team gave him. If he wanted out, he would have accepted the option when they started selling off assets.

    I was a huge fan of Richter, I’m a big fan of Hank. The two main differences between them is Richter has a ring and Hank has his health. Richter was riddled with a lot of injuries at the end. His groin was a reoccurring issue and he also fractured his skull when he took a shot in the side of his head. Hank has amazingly stayed healthy for a 37 almost 38 year old goaltender. Not many have stayed as healthy as he has.

    It is inevitability up to Henrik with his NMC and NTC.

    • Hanks pay is $6M this year and $4.5M next year. $1M is bonus and the rest base salary he has to play for. Nobody is going to walk away from that much money. And as Walt said, not Hanks fault a bit.

  • He’s my favorite, but…
    I got back into the game because of him, but…
    But What? you know better? you know enough? You opinion on the situation warrants, what?

    You stink. that’s what you need to know.
    Everyone has them, but you’re wearing yours on your face.
    ARSEHOLE face.

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