NEW YORK, NY – Wednesday it was announced that the Rangers bought out the last year of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract, ending The King’s fifteen-year reign on Broadway. The writing was on the wall, as Igor Shesterkin was called up last year and quickly became the top choice in net, with Alex Georgiev securing the backup position.
It all left Hank as the odd man out.
The Rangers carried three goalies for a spell last season and gave Lundqvist the start in games 1 and 2 of the qualifying series against the Ottawa Senators this summer. One got the feeling that those would be Hank’s last games for the Blueshirts and that was made official with the buyout.
Henrik Lundqvist has been a fan favorite since he landed on Broadway in 2005 and for fifteen years was the face of the franchise. He won the fans and the league over with his stellar play in net, his competitiveness, and his calm demeanor. In his time as the #1 netminder at The Garden, Hank amassed 459 wins and 64 shutouts in his 871 starts. All of those figures are good for first place on the Rangers’ all-time list. He won a Vezina Trophy in 2012 for is stellar play in net.
Hank had some stellar playoff runs, too. Unfortunately he was unable to get over the hump to lift the Stanley Cup. The Rangers lost in the Final to the Kings in 2014 and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 and 2015. Since then, though, the Rangers haven’t come close and have essentially been rebuilding for the last few seasons.
With the team now poised to take the new generation to the next level, the time was right for the Rangers to part with their stalwart veteran netminder. Rumors swirled that the Lundqvist might be on the trading block last season at the deadline. But his $8.5 million cap hit was tough to move.
The buyout was the right thing to do for the franchise and for Hank. He’ll still get paid and now he will be free to sign for wherever he wants. Some playoff-ready teams have already thrown their hats in the ring for Hank’s services, including the Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
The Blueshirts will carry a cap hit of $5.5 million this season for Hank, instead of the $8.5 million they would have carried if the kept the Swedish legend. That $3 million is huge in a season the Rangers will carry a $6 million cap hit for buying out Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract last year. The extra change in the pocket could help the Rangers solidify the centre (Canadian spelling) position and the defence (again, Canuck spelling) once free agency opens up.
It’s always tough to say goodbye to the face of a franchise. Especially one who has carried himself so well for a decade and a half. Henrik Lundqvist will always be a New York Ranger. His number will be retired and his banner will hang next to other Rangers goaltending greats Eddie Giacomin and Mike Richter. Given the circumstances, the Lundqvist buyout was the best Rangers fans and Hank could have hoped for.
Goodbye Hank. You’ll always be the #1 in Rangers fans’ hearts.
Speaking of hearts, come back tomorrow for Short Matt, whose ticker is aflutter over the Wilpons selling the Mets.