September 30, 2020 | 2:25pm
This is not something Henrik Lundqvist necessarily wished for, but the former Rangers franchise goaltender — too soon? — has the opportunity for the first time to test the open market as a free agent.
He is 38, though, there is a star-studded goaltending carousel about to go ‘round and ‘round, and where it will stop, nobody knows.
One assumes that contenders seeking an experienced backup comprise the field of interest, but it is impossible to gauge how much interest in him there will be. After all, Lundqvist has no experience in that role.
It is possible that Lundqvist, who should be signable to a one-year, over-35 contract with a light base and heavy bonuses, won’t find a team that’s a match for his resume. In that case, the King would likely retire rather than try to latch on with a non-contender just to play another year.
But all it takes is one. All it takes is one team — one general manager, one coach, one goalie coach — believing that No. 30 still has the goods to be a valuable contributor to a Stanley Cup run.
It is unclear when 2020-21 will begin and it is also unclear for how long the travel restrictions between the United States and Canada will remain in force. Lundqvist’s wife and two daughters are expected to remain in New York if the goaltender goes elsewhere to ply his trade, but if travel is not permitted between the countries, that might impact Lundqvist’s decision if he receives an offer from a Canadian team. Beyond that, location on the map as well as in the standings will matter, too.
A preliminary look at potential interested parties:
Henrik Lundqvist’s potential landing spots
St. Louis Blues
The Blues sent backup Jake Allen to the Canadiens, thus leaving Jordan Binnington with an NHL novice in 25-year-old Ville Husso as his backup. This of course is the organization with the general manager (Doug Armstrong) that signed Martin Brodeur as a free agent in 2014 when his time with the Devils had come to an end, so there is that.
Vegas Golden Knights
Perhaps the most intriguing possibility. If the Golden Knights move on from Marc-Andre Fleury, an opening would present itself as the backup to Robin Lehner, whose father, Michael, was Lundqvist’s goaltending instructor for five years in Sweden.
The Petr Mrazek-James Reimer tandem is not Cup worthy and everyone knows it. Problem is that after a career of dominance against the Candy Canes, Lundqvist didn’t play well enough to beat either one of the two goalies in the first two games of the qualifying round, so Carolina could look elsewhere on the market.
Location, location, location, yes, but imagine Lundqvist in the crest made famous by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier while playing behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl? Yes, you would have to have a healthy imagination.
If Jacob Markstrom flees as a free agent, the Canucks would be seeking a goaltender to share responsibilities with 24-year-old Thatcher Demko, who played the final three games of the team’s first-round, seven-game defeat to Vegas. It’s a long way away, though.