Lundqvist not ready to call it quits

A King of New York City: The next time we see Henrik Lundqvist, it could be in a very different uniform if a team is willing to give him a chance he deserves.

Over the past few days, Henrik Lundqvist revealed some emotional thoughts about his great 15-year Rangers career being over. After being officially bought out, the passionate 38-year old had some good messages for the only NHL team he knew along with a loyal fanbase, who’ll miss what King Henrik represented.

My favorite Tweet was this one that Lundqvist posted on what this city is experiencing. It’s a message we need more of.

His fifth and final Tweet on playing for the Rangers is one I think that’s pretty cool. When Lundqvist arrived in the Big Apple, he was a bright eyed 23-year old rookie with everything ahead of him. We cheered his first NHL win against the Devils at Madison Square Garden and so many more memorable moments. My favorite coming when he used his blocker like a gymnast and robbed Thomas Vanek in Game Six versus Montreal at a electric Garden.

Seeing the cute photographs of his wife with their children watching Dad play including outdoors for one of those special Outdoor Games, is what it’s all about. He had that same love and support from the Garden Faithful. A cool phrase Adam Graves coined during his jersey retirement. One day in the near future, we’ll overcome the pandemic and Number 30 will join past Rangers greats up in heaven above the Chase Bridges. It’ll be a special moment.

Following his five Tweets that officially said goodbye to New York City, Lundqvist posted this earlier on a football Sunday. One which included yet another mind numbing Giants loss where they never scored a touchdown.

This can’t be easy for a prideful man who loved being a New York Ranger and is a New Yorker through and through. However, I’m glad he still has the desire to play. Hank deserves another opportunity so he can take one last shot and go out on his terms. Not subbing for the future in Igor Shesterkin during a Play In round that went poorly for the Rangers.

The last image of Lundqvist shouldn’t be seated on the bench watching the Hurricanes sweep the Blueshirts in a uncompetitive three-game elimination to essentially miss the real Stanley Cup Tournament. One that was executed splendidly by the NHL and the 16 teams who competed. Kudos again to Gary Bettman and the Lightning on being a deserving Stanley Cup winner.

What lies ahead is a NHL Draft with the expected top pick Alexis Lafreniere officially becoming a Ranger this Tuesday. The Rangers also have the number 22 pick from the Hurricanes. One I expect them to dangle if the right deal comes along. I believe you will see a major move made by the organization. Not just the end of the Lundqvist and Marc Staal Era. But something else we probably have no idea on.

In regards to Lundqvist looking for a new NHL team, I truly hope there’s someone who’s willing to give him that chance. He handled everything this past season extremely well. Being relegated to third string duty behind Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev had to hurt mentally. But he never said anything negative to the press and it was kept in house. I’m glad he got two more starts even though Shesterkin was hurt in that miniseries. He played well enough in Game One to give them a chance. Game Two just didn’t go as well. It happens.

So, where could be potential landing spots? How about the Oilers, who don’t seem to have the right goalie in place to seriously challenge in the postseason. The thing is Mikko Koskinen is signed through 2022 with an AAV of $4.5 million and a moderated no-trade clause. Veteran Mike Smith is unrestricted. So, there could be a potential fit for Lundqvist, who shouldn’t cost a lot on a one-year contract. He could work well with Koskinen in a tandem if he’s willing to accept that on a Western Canadian team that boasts Hart winner Leon Draisaitl and all world scorer Connor McDavid.

Another possible destination could be the Capitals. With Braden Holtby on the out’s, they’re ready to hand the reigns over to young Russian Ilya Samsonov. With Samsonov only making $925,000 and over 10 million in cap space, they can use a more experienced number two goalie. Who’s to say they wouldn’t consider Lundqvist, who has quite a resume? They can’t exactly spend a lot with key veteran defensemen Radko Gudas and Brenden Dillon UFA’s. That’s assuming they want to retain both. I can see them keeping one and chasing someone else. I’m sure they still believe the window is open with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson assuming he stays.

Imagine Lundqvist on the same team as Ovechkin. That would be strange. They sure had a unique rivalry. Don’t forget old friend Carl Hagelin plays for the Caps too. He played a nice role with the ’13-14 Rangers before going on to win with the hated Pens. I’d prefer not to see Lundqvist in that ugly Caps jersey.

The other factor is the amount of goalies who are available. With a flat salary cap likely holding at $81.5 million, many teams are facing hard decisions ahead. They have to cut costs. That means buyouts or getting creative with trades like the Rangers did by throwing in a 2021 second round pick to unload Staal’s remaining $5.7 million to Detroit. The Blackhawks dumped defenseman Olli Maatta to the Kings earlier today.

There’s been discussions between the Wild and Sharks regarding former starter Devan Dubnyk and possibly Ryan Donato. We’ll see what happens. With the Golden Knights re-signing Robin Lehner for a manageable five-year, $25 million due to no state income tax, veteran Marc-Andre Fleury should be on the move. With the team in cap dire straits, who can afford Fleury’s remaining two years at an AAV of $7 million? They’ll have to make it worthwhile for a suitor.

The Penguins committed three years and $10.5 million towards Tristan Jarry, which could spell the end for two-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray. He’s a restricted free agent. So, he should be affordable for someone.

I’m going to throw two more possibilities out there. Might the Maple Leafs consider it if they decide a partnership between fellow Swedes Frederik Andersen and Lundqvist? Probably not due to the deadline pickup of the affordable Jack Campbell. Andersen has a year left with a moderated no-trade clause.

The Blues are minus a backup behind Jordan Binnington, who came back to earth in an uneven year where he struggled mightily in a disappointing first round ouster to the emerging Canucks. They moved backup Jake Allen to the Canadiens, who needed insurance for Carey Price. There is a opening. Would they actually consider Lundqvist? They don’t have much room.

It also could come down to location for Henrik. Especially if they still are playing at well less than capacity due to the COVID-19. A second wave seems likely with some increases since schools reopened. What are the NHL plans for next season? I can’t see them returning until the new calendar year, which can hurt someone like Lundqvist.

I wish him the very best. He deserves it. Now, it’s time for both him and the Blueshirts to move ahead. If he does wind up on another roster, it’ll be strange. I just hope it works out and he gets to return to 33rd and 7th with fans able to give him a sendoff fit for a King.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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