There is one certainty in the future of Henrik Lundqvist
David Wright, Eli Manning and CC Sabathia. The New York sporting landscape has lost three iconic legends recently as Mets fans, Giants fans and Yankee fans were forced to say goodbye to some of their respective franchises most popular and adored players.
Will New York Ranger fans, begrudgingly, witness the end of an era as well? Rumors have been swirling for quite some time about the Rangers three-headed monster in goal. Will the Garden Faithful have to watch “The King” Henrik Lundqvist abdicate the throne he has commandeered since 2005?
Three’s A Crowd
Lundqvist, the incumbent: Alex Georgiev, the understudy:
Igor Shesterkin, the future: All three capable net-minders have been playing a hockey version of Duck-Duck-Goose with head coach David Quinn patting the goaltender du jour on the top of his head. It is not out of the realm of common sense to ask how much longer this goal-tending carousel can last.
There is an ever-growing sect of Rangerstown that wants to see a Bulgarian/Russian combo in net as the Swedish legend gets sent out to pasture. Blueshirt fans have been losing their patience with Lundqvist’s loyalty to the only NHL franchise he has ever known. The feeling however, coming out of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street is that the greatest goalie in New York Rangers history wants stay in Gotham until, at least, the expiration of his 8-year contract at the end of next season. Since Lundqvist has a full no-trade-clause as well as a prohibitive salary cap hit of 8.5 million dollars, one has to wonder if general manager Jeff Gorton even has a willing trade partner for #30’s services. Gorton and team president John Davidson get paid seven-figure salaries to decide what is best for the Ranger organization moving forward and there is not a shred of doubt that the future of the franchise is in good hands with John and Jeff
The End of the Road
Players come and go. Fan-favorites often get shipped to other teams. Legends are forced to retire due to injury or deterioration of skill. The name on the front of the jersey always, unequivocally, comes before the name on the back. If Lundqvist does decide to waive his no-trade clause or, if the Rangers do the unthinkable and buy out the remaining year of his contract, well, not since Adam Graves was traded after the 2000-01 season would such an admired, beloved and accomplished Ranger be forced out the door.
On a personal note, Adam Graves is my all time favorite hockey player. His #9 sweater not only hangs from the Garden rafters, but it is also the first jersey I ever bought. Back in 1991, I ventured to my local sporting goods store, dropped $35 and proudly displayed my affinity to the man known as “Gravey” to school the following day.
Back in 2001, similarly to today’s struggles, the Rangers were in the midst of a playoff drought and the organization was in a crossroads of sorts. The older, slower Blueshirts needed an immediate injection of youth, speed and skill. The revered Graves was seen as a necessary casualty for the betterment of the team. Graves was traded to the San Jose Sharks on June 24th, 2001 in exchange for forward Mikael Samuelsson and minor-leaguer Christian Gosselin.
Myself, along with legions of Blueshirts fans were devastated. Seeing Graves wearing teal and black instead of the familiar red, white and blue was punch to the solar plexus. Fast forwarding to 2020 and beyond, will jettisoning Lundqvist be seen as a similar sacrifice? Will the man known as “Hank” not realize his ultimate dream of lifting the Stanley Cup at center ice at Madison Square Garden?
Lundqvist has spent the last 15 years endearing himself to the Garden Faithful while etching in stone his place in New York Rangers history. Regardless of how and when his run on Broadway comes to an end, “The King’s” jersey will, one day, hang from the iconic Garden ceiling not too far from Graves’ number 9.