TAMPA — A goalie does not build a Hall of Fame career over 13 seasons by worrying about what might happen next. Instead, he does his best to prepare for it. So Henrik Lundqvist did not frown, blink or change his expression in any way when he was asked about a report that the Rangers might be plunging headlong into sell mode.
“I think this time of year, there is going to be a lot of speculation and rumors. I think that has been the case every year. So you can’t put too much thinking into it,” he said Saturday at NHL All-Star media day, hours before the skills competition and on the eve of the All-Star Game, when he was asked about a report that his team plans to deal many of its top players.
“You’ve got to just stay focused on what you as a player have to do to move forward. Obviously, with the way in the last month-and-a-half we haven’t won as much as we wanted to, speculation is going to be a little bit more this year. But you can’t get sucked into it too much. When I come back next week to get ready for the second half, my focus has got to be on the ice and what I have to do to prepare myself. We’ll see what happens.”
Lundqvist, 35, the Rangers’ cornerstone, is not the type to say anything to discourage his teammates or the fan base. This season has shown that he is as good as he ever has been. If the Rangers do effectively give up on this season, it could spoil all of his hard work and cost him one of his last chances at a playoff run.
If it happens, he will deal with all of that. For now, he is determined to enjoy the weekend and recharge for the rest of the schedule. “I think for us in New York, this break might have come at a good time,’’ he said, alluding to the recent West Coast trip during which he admitted to being “too slow” in a loss. “It gives us a chance to regroup a little bit and get ready here for the second half.”
Lundqvist had no regrets about having to fly to Tampa for a weekend of activities at a time when a good rest would seem helpful. “Having my family here and doing all the things away from the rink help you get away from the game a little bit, and that gives you rest,” he said.
Of the All-Star Weekend, he added, “Physically, it’s not very tough. Yeah, we’re on the ice tonight and we have the game tomorrow, but I’m confident I’m going to come back to New York rested in a few days.”
The Rangers are only one point out of a wild-card playoff spot, continuing a sustained stretch of years in which they have been competitive. But even with Lundqvist at the top of his game, it is unclear whether they are anywhere near a Stanley Cup contender. A slew of trades could position the franchise for the future.
The franchise goalie is choosing not to sweat it. This weekend, he is a star among his fellow stars. “It’s unreal. He has been so solid for all his career,” said Pekka Rinne of the Predators, also an All-Star goalie at 35 but one who has played 241 fewer games than Lundqvist. “Since he has come into the league, he has had a tremendous career and has been one of the top goalies ever since. It’s very impressive.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Coyotes, Lundqvist’s Olympic teammate, said, “It’s just so much fun being around a guy like that, a superstar on and off the ice. He’s a good guy and he acts like a normal guy. It’s pretty amazing how a guy from Sweden can be so big in New York.”