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October 21, 2013 | 10:31am ET
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 Rangers.

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 question.

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 simply "no."

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 the bench.

"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 year.

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 proper adjustments.

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.

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.



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