This was an admission laid bare, the truth of Henrik Lundqvist’s difficult situation with the Rangers coming to light in as open a statement as has been made by the club’s legendary netminder since this rebuilding started just over two years ago.
“I’ve been very open with management over the two years I’ve been through this process, that if there comes a day when they feel like I’m not a good solution, let’s talk about it, let’s be open about it,” Lundqvist said after Monday’s practice, when it was announced that rookie Igor Shesterkin suffered a non-displaced rib fracture in a car accident on Sunday night and is expected to be out at least “a couple weeks.”
Lundqvist will turn 38 years old on March 2, and he has made just three starts since Shesterkin was called up on Jan. 6 to create the three-goalie situation along with Alex Georgiev, who was set to start against the Islanders on Tuesday night at the Coliseum.
“I know we’re going to sit down after this season,” Lundqvist said. “But right now and over the last few weeks, my focus has just been to work hard and be ready. That’s what I think I should be doing. There will be a time here, obviously, when we look at where we are and my position as a player to the organization.”
Lundqvist has one more year left on his contract with a $8.5 million salary-cap hit. He also has a full no-move clause, so he would have to approve any trade that general manager Jeff Gorton could find. The other option would be for the club to buy out the final year of his contract, which would carry $5.5 million of dead cap space next season — a savings of $3 million — and another $1.5 million of dead space in 2021-22.
Either one is a very difficult decision to be made by management for the goalie who has been the face of the franchise since he took over as a rookie starter in 2005-06 and who has franchise records in wins (459, good for sixth in league history) and shutouts (64, good for 16th in league history) among others.
“My situation, after the season, obviously have some things to talk about, your role and if you fit in this role or something else,” Lundqvist said. “Right now, my focus is just to work hard and be ready.”
Lundqvist will have to be ready sooner rather than later, as the opportunities to prove that he can still play will come over the next few weeks with Shesterkin out. The Rangers had played their way to four points out of the second wild-card spot, and a lot of that was due to Shesterkin winning nine of his first 10 NHL starts.
“Yeah, but like I said, the only thing I can do is work hard and be ready when I get an opportunity to play,” Lundqvist said. “It’s important that I try to bring that positive energy.
“For me, it’s a new situation, and it’s been hard not being able to play. But you have to make the best of it, and I think that starts with practices.”
There has been no let-up in Lundqvist’s historic work ethic, going so hard on Friday in Raleigh that he went to coach David Quinn and said it would be better if Georgiev backed up Shesterkin against the Hurricanes. It was the first time Lundqvist had been a healthy scratch in his career, and these strange moments will follow him until his time on Broadway is officially done — whenever that ends up being.
“Again, there will be an opportunity to sit down and talk about my role later on,” Lundqvist said. “But not now.”