Well New York Rangers fans, the dreaded day has arrived. Today the team officially bought out the remaining year of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract. The buyout has officially brought the end of an era in New York Rangers history. For many Ranger fans, this is a tough day.
For the last 15 years, Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone of the Rangers franchise. Lundqvist played his heart out in every minute of every game for this team. From his debut on October 8th, 2005, to his last game on August 3rd, 2020, Lundqvist was a constant not only on the team but in many fans’ lives.
When Lundqvist arrived on the scene it marked a new era of Rangers hockey. This Swedish goalie, who was just 23 at the time, gave an entire fanbase hope. The Rangers at the time of Lundqvist’s emergence were in what many fans and reporters call the dark ages. The team had missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons. They were old, they had failed draft picks, and the team just could not find a way to escape the basement of the NHL.
In the seven-season span from 1997-98 from 2003-04 the Rangers never finished with more than 80 points. But after the 2004-05 lockout, a former seventh-round pick put the team on his shoulders for the first time. The team finished with 100 points and made the playoffs. Sure, they got swept in the first round by the Devils, but there was finally hope in the city.
With Henrik Lundqvist backstopping the team, the Rangers went on to qualify for the postseason in 11 out of their next 12 seasons. With Lundqvist at the helm, the Rangers went to three conference finals and one Stanley Cup Final. Nicknamed “The King,” Lundqvist earned his crown.
To this point in his career, Lundqvist has won 459 games in the regular season and 61 in the postseason. Lundqvist’s 459 wins are far and away the most in Ranger history, and sixth in NHL History. His 61 playoff wins are tied for 14th all-time in the NHL. The one thing Lundqvist is lacking is a Stanley Cup Championship ring and it should be a crime that the Rangers were never able to get one for him. But even though a rebuild, Lundqvist never once wavered in his support for the team.
With the news of the buyout, the Rangers will owe Lundqvist 5.5 million dollars this year and 1.5 million next year. This saves the Rangers three million in cap hit this year but adds one million on the 2021-21 cap hit. Their current cap room sits at right around 23 million dollars, which allows the Rangers to build up their depth in addition to keeping RFAs. It’s a really tough move, but one that needed to be made for the Rangers moving forward. Their competitive window is opening right now, and they need as much cap space as possible to improve their roster from last season.
For Henrik Lundqvist, he officially hits the free-agent market for the first time in his career. The hope is that he goes to a team with a large cup window and finally wins one. If anyone deserves a cup, it’s King Henrik. The 38-year-old goaltender will be beginning a new chapter in his career. But that does not erase all the memories he gave fans over the years. Lundqvist gave the Rangers everything he had. He won with this team, he lost with this team. Most importantly, however, Lundqvist was this team. In his 15 years, Lundqvist was the heart and soul of the team. He is undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer, and in a few years, his number will be immortalized in the Madison Square Garden rafters.