Sep 30: The Rangers have officially announced the buyout. Because of his no-movement clause, there was no need for unconditional waivers. In the press release, Rangers president John Davidson outlined some of the reasons Lundqvist meant so much to the city of New York:
We would like to thank Henrik for his immeasurable contributions to the New York Rangers. From the time I met Henrik when he first came to New York in 2005, he has been the consummate professional. His tireless work ethic, passion for the game, and love of the Rangers and New York City enabled him to become one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey and one of the best players in the history of our franchise. We all wish Henrik and his family the best going forward.
Sep 29: The end of an era is upon us. After 15 years of brilliant play in the New York net, the Rangers and decorated goaltender Henrik Lundqvist are set to part ways. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the Rangers will buy out the final year of Lundqvist’s contract, with an announcement expected on Wednesday. At 38, Lundqvist will be an unrestricted free agent for the very first time.
As Dreger explains, this was not an easy decision for New York. Few players have meant as much to a team in NHL history as Lundqvist has to the Rangers since 2005. The potential future Hall of Famer was a Vezina Trophy winner, a First-Team All-Star, and a wins leader, among many other honors in his long career. Lundqvist leads all active goaltenders in career games played, saves, shutouts, and goals saved above average, acting as a workhorse starter for the Blueshirts for much of his career. While he still has a chance to build on this reputation, it won’t be in New York. The team explored all options, but must move forward with young upstart keepers Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, leaving no room on the roster for Lundqvist, especially at his high cap hit.
With just one year remaining on the seven-year, $59.5MM contract that Lundqvist signed back in 2013, the buyout will only impose penalties against the salary cap for two seasons. CapFriendly projects that Lundqvist’s $4.5MM base salary and $1MM signing bonus in this final year will count toward the salary cap in full for a total hit of $5.5MM in 2020-21. In 2021-22, the penalty will be just $1.5MM. The $3MMM in savings this season for the Rangers will give the team even more flexibility to re-sign their pending restricted free agents while also exploring the free agent market for additional help.
Lundqvist meanwhile will hit a free agent market that is already chock full of goalies, most of whom are not coming off the worst season of their careers. Quickly approaching 40 and in steep decline over the past four or five years, it is hard to imagine Lundqvist getting any more than a small, one-year contract to serve as a backup. However, the decorated netminder already has plenty of money and accolades. All he wants at this point in his career is to sign with a team that give him the one thing he doesn’t have: a Stanley Cup.