Henrik Lundqvist has been one of the leagues elite for over 10 years, but how much longer does the aging veteran have?
Lundqvist has been a constant for the Rangers in a league where constants are hard to come by. Since 2005-2006, when he broke into the league at age 23, the 7th round draft pick has been wowing the Garden faithful with dominant performances and miraculous saves.
Now, at age 35, entering his 13th season with the Rangers the question is starting to surface: how much longer does Lundqvist have and will it impact the Rangers efforts to win now?
Life after 35
Of all the positions on the ice, goaltenders take the longest to develop. Therefore, the prime of a goaltenders career often occurs during their late 20’s or even early 30’s. Whatever the case may be, mother nature eventually catches up with everyone.
For Lundqvist, the first possibly cracks in the King’s armor may have shown last season. At times, Lundqvist wasn’t quite himself and for the first time in his career as a starter he sat for three straight games while uninjured. So is Lundqvist set for a step back?
If you look at goaltenders of similar caliber: Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph and Dominik Hasek, you can try to predict what Lundqvist’s next couple seasons may look like.
Of all the goalies listed, only Roy didn’t play into his 40’s. Of the four goaltenders who did, three posted at least three 30-plus win season after the age of 35. Hasek and Brodeur won Vezina trophies at 35 or older. Lundqvist is frequently mentioned in the same breath as some of the all time greats and many of them had great success after 35.
While the numbers of Hasek, Brodeur and Belfour weren’t as dominant after age 35, compared to the majority of goaltenders in the league they were just as good if not better.
Just based of the comparable goaltenders, there is no suggestion that Lundqvist will be a shadow of himself this season or the next. He could very well have four or five fantastic years left with the Rangers.
In 11 of his 12 seasons, Lundqvist has totaled 30 wins or more. The only season he didn’t achieve the feat was shortened by a lockout. He has a career goals against average of 2.32 and a save percentage of .920. With 405 wins to his name, he is undoubtedly a hall of famer.
However, the one thing that makes Lundqvist as dominant as he has been is his competitive drive. The King is known around the league as one of the most drive athletes in the NHL. His focus is unmatched and for that reason alone, you can expect to see Lundqvist continue to post quality numbers for the next few years.
What’s the window?
The Rangers are a very good team, with Lundqvist they are a great team. No matter the talent in front over the last 12 years, the team goes as far as Lundqvist takes them. Under his current salary Lundqvist will be a Ranger until he is 39. That’s the window.
I don’t see a need to panic and think that Lundqvist only has a year left. By the same token, to assume that he will be elite beyond his current contract is far fetched. The Rangers have been in win-now mode for a few years and offseason moves this year indicate a similar mentality.
If the Rangers can’t win a cup by the time Lundqvist’s contract is up that means trouble. The team has been built around the King for more than 10 years and he is their best chance at winning it all.
The window is closing, I would give it three to four years. Not just for Lundqvist, but for the Rangers as well. If the team can’t win the Cup with one of the greatest of all time between the pipes, it may be a while before they get another chance.