Henrik Lundqvist is 33-years-old. With 10 NHL seasons under his belt, Lundqvist has 339 wins (best in Rangers franchise history), he has a career goals-against average of 2.26, a career save percentage of .921, and he’s won the Vezina Trophy. Lundqvist has been to the playoffs in nine of those 10 seasons, he’s lights out when it comes to game sevens, and he’s reached three Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final.
The Swedish netminder is unquestionably one of the greatest, most consistent goaltenders of our time, and yet with all that he’s accomplished over the past decade (including an Olympic Gold Medal), he is still without a Stanley Cup.
Lundqvist is not getting any younger and under his current contract, he’s slated to be a Ranger until he would be 39-years-old. Given the situation, is it fair to wonder that if Lundqvist does not win that elusive Stanley Cup within the next two or so seasons and the Rangers’ championship window begins to close, will he be traded from New York to a team where he’d have a better chance to win, much the way Ray Bourque did when he left Boston for Colorado?
The Yearly Disappointment
It’s hard to remember the last Ranger loved by the Blueshirt faithful the way Henrik Lundqvist has been over the past decade. Year after year, it seems as though fans of the Rangers feel almost as strong a disappointment for Lundqvist as an individual as they do for the team.
Every spring in the days and weeks after the team’s elimination, while fans and sports radio hosts dissect all that went wrong, rarely does Lundqvist’s name come up with regard to criticism. Instead, it is talked about with exasperation and disbelief that the heart and soul of Rangerstown, who has done anything and everything in his capacity to reach the next level, has once again been let down by the team in front of him.
Ranger diehards struggle to look at or listen to Lundqvist speak post-elimination, for the sense of defeat and disappointment from the star netminder is too much for many fans to bear.
Even fanatics of other teams (excluding perhaps the Islanders, Devils, Flyers, and Penguins) have seemingly come to agree that after all the heartbreaking springs The King has endured over his career, even he deserves a championship as much as anyone else in the NHL.
You have to feel for Henrik Lundqvist. Unreal goalie. I really hope he gets his cup one day. pic.twitter.com/WYl9tlmmho
— Gino Hard (@Ginohard_) May 30, 2015
It’s a similar sentiment to the way golf fans felt in the years before Phil Mickelson finally broke through to win the 2004 Masters after years of fringe success.
But the fact remains that while Lundqvist has come ever so close to winning on a team that has seemingly had all the right parts in place, he’s continually fallen just short.
So again, the question must be raised. Will Henrik Lundqvist be moved from New York if the Rangers do not win a cup within the next couple of years before the championship window presumably closes?
Could a Move be in Lundqvist’s Future?
Lundqvist has said publicly how much he loves being a Ranger and playing in New York. I, as an observer, have no doubt that he wants to bring the Stanley Cup back to Madison Square Garden more than anything in the world. But time does not slow down, he is not getting any younger, and the Rangers’ championship window won’t remain open forever.
Will that hunger to win eventually transcend his love of being a Blueshirt?
Ray Bourque left Boston after 20-plus seasons without a Stanley Cup, in order to win one with Colorado in his final NHL season. Jarome Iginla left Calgary after more than 15 seasons in the hopes of joining the right contender to finally win his first Stanley Cup. The former captain of the Flames has since been a member of the Penguins, Bruins, and Avalanche, but at 37 has yet to raise the silver chalice.
For the time being, Henrik Lundqvist is a Ranger, and will remain a Ranger for the foreseeable future. The support he’s been given from the fans at the Garden over the years will surely remain steadfast in the coming seasons, and the very real possibility still exists that he could win a Cup while the window remains open on Broadway.
However, if Lord Stanley’s Cup continues to elude him, it would be hard to blame him if he does come to desire a change of scenery, and equally difficult to not feel good for the guy if and when his time does come, whether or not it’s with the Rangers.
If Henrik Lundqvist does eventually leave New York still in search of his first Stanley Cup, he certainly wouldn’t be the first to leave an organization which he’s given so much to in the hopes of chasing down the Stanley Cup dream.
Winning a championship in professional sports is a profoundly tough thing to do. Plenty of top-tier athletes have retired from their respective sports without having ever celebrated winning a title. It certainly does occur.
I just hope that doesn’t happen to Lundqvist. He’s the ultimate competitor and deserves to win the Stanley Cup, even if that means being traded out of New York at some point down the road.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.