6 Landing Spots for Rangers Goalie Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist's days with the New York Rangers may soon draw to a close. He has spent his entire 15-season NHL career with the Blueshirts, but management could be ready to part ways with the longtime starter.
Lundqvist, 38, has one year left on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $8.5 million. But the Rangers are carrying two young, affordable goaltenders in budding star Igor Shesterkin and backup Alexandar Georgiev, and they no longer have room between the pipes for their aging star.
With his future in doubt in New York, Lundqvist could bring his long NHL career to an end by retiring. The Rangers could also buy out the final season of his contract, but Cap Friendly indicates that will take up $5.5 million in cap space for 2020-21, followed by $1.5 million against their cap the following season.
The other option is a trade, provided Lundqvist is willing to waive his no-movement clause. As his career winds down, he might prefer to join a contender for one final shot at the Stanley Cup.
Finding suitable partners could be difficult given his age and contract. Nevertheless, he could prove useful in a limited role for playoff contenders that seek short-term experience in the crease, provided the Rangers are willing to retain part of his salary-cap hit. A team can retain no more than 50 percent of a player's salary to facilitate a trade.
Here's a look at several possible landing spots for Henrik Lundqvist if he agrees to be traded. Playoff contender status, salary-cap space and goaltending depth factored into this compilation.
Tuukka Rask's decision Aug. 15 to leave the Boston Bruins for family reasons midway through their opening-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes raised questions about his future with the club. The Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont and CBS Boston's Michael Hurley wondered if he'd played his last game with the Bruins.
Rask has a year left on his contract with a $7 million salary-cap hit. On March 22, he hinted at retirement once his contract expires. Whether his recent situation has changed that plan remains to be seen. If he and the Bruins part company, Boston could be in the market for an experienced netminder like Lundqvist.
The Bruins have backup Jaroslav Halak under contract for next season at an affordable $2.25 million. They recently re-signed Dan Vladar to a three-year, two-way deal worth $750,000 annually at the NHL level, but he has little NHL experience. He is waiver-exempt, allowing the Bruins to return him to their AHL affiliate without fear that another team would put in a claim for him.
While the Bruins have $66 million invested in 20 players next season, that figure drops to $59 million if Rask retires. General manager Don Sweeney might prefer a younger, affordable replacement. But if such options are difficult to find in the offseason, Lundqvist's experience could make him valuable as a short-term backup for Halak next season.
Roster changes could be in store for the Calgary Flames following their first-round elimination by the Dallas Stars. Their goaltending remains a question mark. David Rittich has yet to establish himself as a starter, while Cam Talbot is slated to become an unrestricted free agent.
If Talbot signs elsewhere, the Flames could be in the market for someone to share the goaltending duties with Rittich. Lundqvist could fit that role if he's willing to accept a trade to Calgary.
The Flames have $64.6 million committed to 13 players next season. While they can afford Lundqvist's cap hit, they could prefer the Rangers to absorb a healthy portion of it.
With his many years of NHL experience, Lundqvist could settle in as a backup and mentor for Rittich. His leadership could also help the Flames find the formula for playoff success.
With rising stars like Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and a deep defensive corps, the Carolina Hurricanes could become a force in the Eastern Conference. Goaltending, however, remains their Achilles' heel.
While the current tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer helped the Hurricanes overcome Lundqvist and the Rangers, they couldn't help Carolina get past the Boston Bruins. Neither netminder has proved himself as a reliable starter.
The Hurricanes got a good look at Lundqvist during the two games he faced them in the qualifying round. While the results were mixed, he was solid in the first game with a .919 save percentage. Perhaps he could post better numbers behind Hurricanes defenders.
The Hurricanes are carrying $72.4 million for 16 players next season, so the Rangers would have to absorb part of his cap hit. It would also mean Carolina has to find a taker for Mrazek or Reimer. Both have a year remaining on their contracts.
Shaky goaltending contributed to the Edmonton Oilers' elimination from the qualifying round by the underdog Chicago Blackhawks. It was a discouraging finish to this season for the Oilers, who were on their way to clinching a playoff berth when COVID-19 derailed the regular season.
The Oilers have reached the playoffs only once (2017) since marching to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Nevertheless, they made great strides this season. The opportunity to finish his career with superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl might prove tempting for Lundqvist.
It's unlikely the Oilers will re-sign pending free agent Mike Smith after the Blackhawks lit him up for five goals on 23 shots in his only appearance in the qualifying round. With Mikko Koskinen under contract for two more seasons, an experienced hand like Lundqvist as his backup could provide short-term stability if better options aren't available via trade or free agency.
The Oilers have $71.2 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. General manager Ken Holland would have to get creative and shed some salary to make room for Lundqvist. Even then, the Rangers would have to retain part of his cap hit.
Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin wants improvement between the pipes. "I was disappointed in this year's goaltending," he told reporters in August, stressing it had to be better. Perhaps Lundqvist could land in Minnesota.
Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock comprise their current tandem. As noted by Sarah McLellan of the Star Tribune, the Wild had this season's third-worst save percentage (.897) and a bottom-10 goals-against average of 3.14. That led Guerin to move on from goalie coach Bob Mason.
Guerin didn't rule out bringing back Dubnyk and Stalock for another season. However, he also has promising Kaapo Kahkonen in the system. Lundqvist could be among the short-term options if the Wild GM decides to really shake things up.
The Wild have $65.3 million committed to 17 players in 2020-21. Dubnyk has a 19-team list of trade destinations. Moving him and his $4.3 million cap hit would create more space for part of Lundqvist's cap hit to add the former Vezina Trophy winner as a mentor for Kahkonen.
San Jose Sharks
A year after reaching the Western Conference Final, the San Jose Sharks failed to qualify for the 2020 playoffs. Goaltending was among their issues, as the combined goals-against per game of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell (3.21) was the league's fifth-worst.
Jones, 30, has four years left on his contract at $5.75 million annually and a three-team trade list. He's not going anywhere. Dell, however, is due to become an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps Lundqvist could be his short-term replacement.
Jones might regain his form with a respected former Vezina Trophy winner to share his workload and provide some guidance. Lundqvist might be a good fit among stars like Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns.
As with the other clubs on this list, the Sharks have to deal with salary-cap constraints. With $67.4 million tied up in 14 players, general manager Doug Wilson would have to do some juggling to find a way to fit Lundqvist into the roster.