The 2017-18 New York Rangers made perhaps the most abrupt about-face in recent NHL history when they announced mid-season that they were essentially scrapping the entire campaign and going into a premature rebuild. In a letter to season ticket holders general manager Jeff Gorton explained his plan heading into the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, warning fans that veterans and fan favorites may be traded. Of course, Gorton held true to his word shipping out long-time Rangers players like Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and Nick Holden. Head coach Alain Vigneault was also scrapped the day after the season concluded. Clearly, this is a different team moving forward.
So what can we expect from the Rangers in 2018-19? Well, for one they’ll be a much younger team. It’s expected that rookies Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson and Vitaly Kavtsov will all compete for regular ice time in training camp and youngsters like Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei will all be expected to take the next step in their development. And, as always, the Rangers can rely on having a steadying presence in goal. Lundqvist will be back between the pipes for his 14th season with the Rangers in 2018-19, but what are his expectations for this new, young Rangers squad? At 36 years old and without a Stanley Cup championship on his resume, will Lundqvist be content to ride out the Rangers’ rebuild? Or would he just as soon pack it in? Maybe he’d welcome a trade to a contender?
Lundqvist recently talked through his mental state and addressed trade rumors and retirement rumors with TSN’s OverDrive 1050 program yesterday. Check out some of these quotes:
“We had that discussion before the big announcement and everything. They kind of let me what was going on with the plan. To me, I made a big commitment to the organization and they made a commitment to me about four years ago.
“That was really the only time I was thinking about, ‘okay, where I am I going to be in the next five, six, ten years, who knows?’ For me, it was a simple answer: I told my agent back then I want to be in New York, I want to finish my career in New York — that was my goal and that was my dream.”
“I know in the hockey world things change, things happen. The way they feel about me, or whatever is working might not work in the future, but there was no long or hard discussion for when that was brought to the table last year.”
“I want to stay here. I still believe we can turn this around pretty fast. My goal is to win in New York. That’s what pushes me the most and drives me the most right now. I want to believe it [winning a Stanley Cup] can happen before I retire.”
Safe to say that King Henrik is a Rangers or die kind of guy. It’s hard to imagine him playing for another team and it’s likely that he’ll honor the remaining three years of his massive seven year, $60 million contract before fading into hockey history.