In a wide-ranging interview published in the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten (The Gothenburg Post), Henrik Lundqvist said he was surprised and disappointed that he finished the now-completed regular season as the Rangers’ third goaltender, but he intends to fight to regain his position as No. 1 goalie and believes he can play “another few years’’ in the NHL.
The Rangers blog Forever Blueshirts got a translation of the article, written by reporter Johan Rylander in Swedish, and wrote a post about it. In the blog, Lundqvist, 38, is quoted as saying, “When things turned out the way they did, I was surprised, but at the same time, part of me understands the situation.’’
Igor Shesterkin, the 24-year-old Russian rookie who came up from AHL Hartford in early January, grew into the No. 1 role by the time the NHL season was paused on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexandar Georgiev, another 24-year-old Russian and Lundqvist’s backup for a season and a half, appeared to have settled into the No. 2 spot, with Lundqvist relegated to No. 3.
“I’m not blind,’’ Lundqvist said in the article. “They’re thinking ahead. There are many pieces that go into building a team right now, but also for the future.’’
With the NHL announcing a plan for a return to play that has the Rangers facing the Hurricanes in a best-of-five play-in series to advance to the 16-team playoffs, there might be an opportunity for Lundqvist to get the starting job for that series.
Lundqvist has dominated Carolina, posting a 33-12-1 record, 2.00 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. In 2019-20, he was 3-0 against the Hurricanes with a 2.33 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Rangers president John Davidson said that whenever the Rangers begin training again — the NHL said that won’t be before July 10 — there will be “a battle’’ between the three goalies to win the assignment to start against Carolina.
Lundqvist is ready for that battle. “I have to fight if I want to go back and have that place in the net,’’ he said.
Asked about speculation that the Rangers might buy out the final year of his contract next season, Lundqvist said that is “not in my mind right now.’’ He added that his focus is to train hard to get ready for playoff training camp, whenever it starts.
He also said he isn’t ready to walk away from the NHL just yet.
“I can sense that I have it in me to go another few years over there in the NHL,’’ he said. “I’m sure of it.’’