This is a guest post from Brandon Cohen, who used to run Blue Line Station. This is not something I (Dave) am ready for.
With Valentine’s Day behind us, cuffing season is almost at its close. Couples are settling into a nice groove or ending things with an eye on the spring and beyond. If you think of Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers as a relationship, it would be more like a long-term engagement, with the ring being something both parties have interest in. However, the engagement is on the rocks.
Let me preface the remainder of this article by saying this is not a statistical analysis. I haven’t sifted through the data behind Henrik Lundqvist and Alex Georgiev for this article, nor did I think it was necessary. This is about what Lundqvist wants and what the Rangers want.
Continuing to liken this to a relationship, let’s take a look at the parties involved. Henrik Lundqvist wants to play. I am sure he wants to finish his career with the Rangers, and I am sure he is not begging the Rangers to trade him, but the star goalie has started four games in 2020 with no signs of more games coming any time soon.
Meanwhile, the New York Rangers want to develop their young goalies. It’s a reasonable desire for a team that is in the latter portion of a rebuild, and one that features two starting calibre NHL goalies below the age of 25. For the team, the argument is not that Henrik Lundqvist is not good enough. Instead, the argument is that the other options are too good.
So what we have is a long-term happily engaged couple who want different things. Think of it as one partner wants kids and the other wants to travel the world. These differences are too significant to mend, as the Rangers cannot afford to give Lundqvist the ice time he desires, and Lundqvist must know that spending the rest of his career as a glorified backup is wasting his talent.
While the comparison of Georgiev vs. Lundqvist holds some merit, the man who is making the decision for all parties involved is Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin is far too good to split starts like Cory Schneider did with Martin Brodeur when the latter was in his final days with the New Jersey Devils, and even more importantly he is far too valuable to the organization. As stated earlier, the Rangers are nearing the end of their rebuild.
When the Rangers want to compete, they need a battle-tested Shesterkin ready for an NHL starter’s workload. Unless Lundqvist is willing to spend the last years of his career playing below 40 games, Sheshterkin won’t get the workload he needs. Whereas Georgiev is a cost-controlled, young goalie who still benefits from practice and backup time, Henrik Lundqvist is Henrik Lundqvist. It’s a waste of his talent to sit him on the bench for 45+ games.
Thus, the breaking point has been reached. Henrik Lundqvist requires more starts than the Rangers can afford to give him, New York already has their perfect backup goalie on their current roster, and Lundqvist’s replacement is also already in the Big Apple.
Emotions say Lundqvist should be a Ranger forever, but emotions don’t win championships, and emotions don’t develop prospects. Henrik Lundqvist deserves to compete for a championship and play 45+ games a season, while the Rangers deserve to develop their top goalie prospect.
It’s not him, it’s not the team. It’s mutual. While the engagement has been a roaring success, this offseason, it’s time for the most difficult breakup yet.