Lundqvist’s Tenure Worth More to Rangers, Even in Rebuild

This topic may seem insane to some, but it’s unavoidable considering the New York Rangers’ situation. The Rangers are in a rebuild, and every one of the remaining veteran players has had their name brought up in potential trade talks. Yes, that reportedly has included star goalie, and longtime face of the franchise, Henrik Lundqvist.

Over the last week, some feedback I’ve received from hockey fans suggested Lundqvist be offered up. Confused yet intrigued, I ran a couple of non-scientific polls across my social media. Though I don’t have a big following, about 65 percent said Lundqvist should remain with the team, with another 11 saying they’d only trade him if there was a nicely-sized haul in return.

Lundqvist has a no-movement clause, which means he’d have to sign off on any trade he’s in. I personally doubt they’ll end up trading him, but nothing should be ruled out when it comes to a rebuild. Some say a trade is best for both sides, others feel Lundqvist is too important a team member.

Is there anything that can come out of trading Lundqvist? What would be the circumstances? Are there any other options? Is this realistic?

Lundqvist’s Value & Rangers Needs

Those who feel the Rangers need to trade Lundqvist often point to the definition of rebuild — everyone from the past (apart from maybe one or two) are gone. It makes sense logically, and while the likes of Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes may be worth more in trade value, their play may convince the Rangers to hold them past the Trade Deadline.

Vegas Golden Knights' Alex Tuch and New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist
Vegas Golden Knights’ Alex Tuch and New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

But what can the Rangers get in exchange for a goaltender who, while legendary, is in the closing stages of his career? Is there any team Lundqvist would be willing to waive his no-movement clause for?

Rangers brass will look for prospects, and trading someone like Lundqvist means it must be a package deal. And the Rangers’ return should see young, speedy guys — the kind head coach David Quinn wants on the team. A couple can play defensively (again, see Quinn’s style of play), and New York can gain a power forward and/or sniper to help bolster the team’s offense.

But will a team be willing to give such players up? Only if it somehow sees Lundqvist as the piece that solidifies a Cup this year or next. And would the goalie be willing to go? Only if he also saw a guaranteed championship and wanted it more than being a Blueshirt for life, which he’s denied previously.

What Lundqvist Means to New York

What Lundqvist has been for the Rangers may be worth more than anything the Rangers could get in a trade. He’s been a face of the team since debuting in 2005, five years after the Swedish goalie was drafted by them.

In sports, there are those players who — championship or not — are known for great play and heart with a single team for their whole career. For example, in New York, there’s Derek Jeter for the Yankees and Michael Strahan for the Giants. Lundqvist is a part of that class.

Henrik Lundqvist Ryan Strome
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and center Ryan Strome (Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)

Another Rangers legend, Brian Leetch, should have been in this group. Leetch, taken ninth overall by the Rangers in 1986, after years of being a key contributor and helping the team win the 1994 Stanley Cup, was traded. None of the players the Rangers received in the trade — Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen and Michael Sauer — ended up playing in the NHL for long, if at all.

Meanwhile, Leetch received offers from just about every team during the 2006-07 season, even though he was unofficially retired (he made it official that May). Can the Rangers risk that same mistake?

And a Lundqvist trade means that Alexandar Georgiev will have to take over in the crease, and he will have big skates to fill — whether Lundqvist is traded or when he retires. It’s doubtful he’s ready for such a role yet; moreover, why trade away the person who’s a phenomenal mentor for him?

Other Rangers Veterans That Could Go

Marc Staal is another veteran player still remaining, but he’s the seasoned veteran leading the defensive charge for Quinn. Like Lundqvist, he also has a no-movement clause. If you really want him gone, maybe offer him the chance to play with one of his brothers?

With so much depth at center and his desire for a bigger contract in the offseason, Hayes seems prime to sell. But his play, ironically, makes many hope he stays with the team. Kreider does have the harder contract hit, but with his scoring on a team lacking offense, can you trade him while keeping Hayes?

Mats Zuccarello seems to be the unanimous choice of being gone by the deadline. The only downside is he may not be seen as valuable as Lundqvist, Hayes, or Kreider.

If somehow the Rangers do find a deal for Lundqvist, and he decided he wanted to win a Stanley Cup — something some feel he needs to be considered a next-level great (see Alex Ovechkin) — it would hurt, but I’d still root for him and hope he gets that title.

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports)

Yes, maybe the kind of price suggested for Lundqvist could be crazy to some. But then again, maybe the idea of Lundqvist playing anywhere else is crazy.