After expressing doubt about his future with the New York Rangers, these five teams could be willing to make a trade for Henrik Lundqvist.
Near the 2018 NHL trade deadline, the New York Rangers apparently gave Henrik Lundqvist an opportunity to be traded. But the veteran goaltender refused, choosing to stay around as the team shifted toward a rebuild.
Lundquist is preparing to play for Team Sweden in the upcoming World Championships. Speaking to a Swedish newspaper on Monday, he expressed doubt about finishing his career with the Rangers.
“I don’t know if I’ll stay with the Rangers my entire career,” “I have two years left on my deal and it has always been my goal to stay with the Rangers, but once you get up there in age you never know. I know what I want, but if the club has other ideas I know I’ll have to listen. You can’t just do your own thing.”
As he alluded to, Lundqvist has two years left on a seven-year, $59.5 million deal. He’s set to make $7 million next season and $5.5 million in 2020-21, with cap hits of $8.5 million both seasons. He also has a no-move clause, so he’d have to give his blessing to a trade elsewhere.
The Rangers have their Lundqvist succession plan in place, as Alexandar Georgiev started 10 of their final 19 games this past season and had a .935 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average over that span. They’ve also signed 2014 draft pick Igor Shesterkin, after he posted a .953 save percentage and 10 shutouts over 28 games for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL.
After going 12-9-7, with a .916 save percentage and 891 saves (fourth in the league to that point) and appearing in the 2019 All-Star game, Lundqvist faded badly last season. He went 3-11-3 with a 3.18 GAA and a .904 save percentage over his final 17 games, including 1-7-1 with a 3.23 GAA and a .906 save percentage over his final nine starts as he split time with Georgiev.
Lundqvist set career worsts in save percentage (.907) and GAA (3.07) in 2018-19, and at age 37 the days of “King Henrik” aren’t coming back.
Lundqvist quickly walked back his comments, telling the New York Post he and the Rangers organization are “on the same page.”
"What I meant is that a player never becomes bigger or more important than an organization. While it is still my goal to win the Cup in New York before I retire, at the same time I understand as a player that I have to respect the position we are in and process we are going through."
The one thing missing from Lundqvist’s resume is a Stanley Cup. The Rangers don’t seem close to that, and if he’s going to waive his no-move clause it will be for a team with a chance to make a Cup run. The idea of being “on the same page” may very well mean, “let’s find a team to trade you to.”
With that in mind, these five teams could make a trade for Lundqvist.
Before we dive into more serious business, let’s remember Lundqvist’s turn on a “This is SportsCenter” commercial.
5. New York Islanders
The Islanders took a chance on Robin Lehner last offseason, and they were rewarded nicely. But Lehner is set to become a free agent, and may find far greener pastures elsewhere. The Islanders have Thomas Greiss under contract for one more season, and the danger for them would be overpaying Lehner based on what could be a unrepeatable season.
The Islanders enter the offseason with plenty of cap space ($35.2 million, via Spotrac), and if they’re somehow able to move Cal Clutterbuck they’d create a bit more. Maybe the Rangers would take Clutterbuck, with some inherent and obvious draft pick sweetener, in a deal for Lundqvist.
Barry Trotz instantly made the Islanders into a pretty good defensive team upon taking over as coach. That makes them an appealing potential destination for Lundqvist to consider, with Greiss remaining in place as a capable backup to allow him to stay fresh.