Lundqvist is New York
Make no mistake, star goalie Henrik Lundqvist is exactly where he needs
to be in The Big Apple.
NEW YORK, NY -- Like any new relationships, there's still a measure of
volatility and distrust between Alain Vigneault and the New York
As they battle the ebbs and flows of a rigorous NHL season, their bond
will strengthen and the two sides will begin to complement each other.
But for Rangers fans who have seen only one Stanley Cup championship
in the past seven decades, they are hoping this relationship ends with
a Stanley Cup at the altar.
The biggest sign, so far, of the frayed early relationship has a lot
of Rangers fans understandably shaken. Their franchise goaltender, who
pulled the New York Rangers from irrelevance after the first lockout
of the new millennium, was called to task slightly by Vigneault after
the club's 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 19.
"I'm sure if you ask him that he knows he can be better than what he
has shown. He needs to be better," Vigneault said in his post-game
press conference. He added a few compliments, but the fact remains,
Lundqvist probably isn't used to someone calling his play into
So, should Ranger fans expect Lundqvist to sign with the highest
bidder in the off-season?
Well, unless the highest bidder is the New York Rangers, the answer is
There was rampant speculation after a disappointing 2012-13 campaign
that saw the Rangers drop a series against the eventual Eastern
Conference champion Boston Bruins that Lundqvist may look for greener
pastures elsewhere. There was also talk that then-Head Coach John
Tortorella and Lundqvist were at odds. While Lundqvist vehemently
denied that speculation, Tortorella was let go from his post behind
"I know there is some speculation regarding [Tortorella] being fired,
but let's be clear on one thing," Lundqvist told the New York Post
after the firing. "It's not my call who the coach should be for the
New York Rangers."
That should be the first sign that Lundqvist is no prima-donna willing
whine to management about who makes the calls. He has always shown he
is a stellar teammate and keeps focuses solely on the game. His
introverted game-related personality has never shown any signs of
wanted to sign elsewhere. Of course his non-commitment about contract
talk -- which should have been read as a player who really never says
anything in a media scrum be non-committal is status-quo -- help fuel
tons of speculation.
That fact is, if General Manager Glen Sather is left to make a choice
between Lundqvist or anyone; the choice is going to be Lundqvist,
there's no doubt.
Lundqvist and his brand bring in revenue that a coach never will. He
is the posterboy for the franchise, his jersey litters the Madison
Square Garden stands, he, unlike any other player on the team has
international appeal and he happens to be pretty damn good.
From Lundqvist's standpoint, it makes zero sense to walk. He is just
starting his family, lives in a penthouse apartment that most people
could only dream of, he has business investments in New York City, and
not every single franchise is willing to spend to the cap to put the
best team possible on the ice like the Rangers. It also helps that the
Rangers have missed the playoffs once with Lundqvist in net -- on a
last game of the season shootout, nonetheless.
So, let's suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine Lundqvist will
field offers with a real interest in maybe finding a new home. Where
exactly is he going to sign?
Top franchises like Boston, Los Angeles, San Jose and Chicago are
solidified in goal. The only viable option would in a place like
Pittsburgh, if the Penguins finally decide to cut ties with Marc-Andre
Fleury, though his performance to start the season suggests otherwise
and with mega contracts for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris
Letang, there's really not room to give a goaltender $8 million per
So, where would he go?
Keep in mind, as a marquee player, with endorsement deals in Europe
and a bigger-than-life brand, he won't be going to a market like
Florida, Calgary, Edmonton or even Philadelphia -- although they
wouldn't have the cap space for him either.
Lundqvist needs to the main guy in a big city. There's not a better
situation for him than in New York.
His team will spend for him, they have a solid young defense, he can
continue to market himself internationally, he has a young daughter
here, and he has spent his entire career here.
With that said, it leaves one very important fact: the Rangers have
not been very good this year. Their possession numbers are
astronomically bad in losses so far, they are bottom of the league in
goal differential and nobody is scoring consistently.
Obviously, injuries have hurt them greatly, but the lack of confidence
in the system has been a killer so far. The struggle in change is most
evident in the defenseman so far. They are no longer just asked to
defend, but also be the genesis of the offense. Guys like Ryan
McDonagh, John Moore and Michael Del Zotto are still wet behind the
ears and need to gain more confidence in their ability to be a bit
exposed to make a play.
It's still too early to judge a team based solely on record. The onus
is not entirely on the players but Vigneault, as well, who needs to
gain more familiarity with the players abilities before he can make
Remember in the off-season when Vigneault said he didn't want to watch
any tape of the team because he wanted it to be a fresh start? In
hindsight, that probably was not the best idea, as he really does not
have a grasp on what his players are capable of.
As the team gets healthy and finds the right combination of players,
whether they are in the NHL right now or honing their skills in
Hartford, the Rangers will be able to pull it all together.
Especially because they are playing in what might be the worst
division in hockey, this year.