Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist says he’s not done yet.
In a candid interview with Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten (The Gothenburg Post), the King expressed his belief that he can play “another few years” in the NHL and said he intends to fight for a return to the throne as the Rangers’ No. 1 goalie if the league resumes play.
Lundqvist, 38, also admitted he was surprised to fall into a third-string role in favor of rookie Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. Forever Blueshirts, a Rangers blog, posted a translation of the article, written in Swedish.
“What am I supposed to say about that? I had a picture of how the season would develop, what I had in mind,” Lundqvist said about his loss of minutes in his 15th season in New York. “When things turned out the way they did, I was surprised. But, at the same time, part of me understands the situation.
“I’m not blind. They’re thinking ahead. There are many pieces that go into building a team right now, but also for the future. You’re going to have to widen the view a little. But it wasn’t like I projected my own plan for sure.”
Shesterkin, 24, was called up from AHL Hartford for his NHL debut in early January and quickly saw a bulk of time in the net. He went 10-2 before the season was suspended indefinitely on March 12. Georgiev, who has served as Lundqvist’s backup for the last season-and-a-half, held on to his job as the No. 2 goalie.
But with the NHL’s 24-team return-to-play format pinning the Rangers against the Hurricanes in a best-of-five play-in series to advance to the 16-team playoffs, Lundqvist could have an opportunity to win back the starting job.
“I have to fight if I want to go back and have that place in the net,’’ he said.
On paper, Lundqvist is an enticing option to put between the pipes against Carolina. He has accumulated a convincing 33-12-1 record against the Hurricanes, posting a 2.00 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in his career. The five-time All-Star also went 3-0 against the Hurricanes this season, with a .947 save percentage and 2.33 GAA.
On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Rangers president John Davidson said he expects the coaching staff will take a good look at all three netminders during training camp — which the NHL says won’t be held prior to July 10 — before making a decision.
With Lundqvist set to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, there has been speculation the Rangers could opt to buy him out. But he said the possibility of a buyout was “not in my mind right now.”
“The focus is training and this summer,” he said. “Now we go for it right here.”
Lundqvist couldn’t avoid discussing the inevitable: the end of his career, but it is apparent he’s definitely not done just yet.
“It’s clear that I’m thinking about how much I love hockey and how long I think I can continue, or even want to continue. I also realized that I can’t look that far ahead,” he said. “Now we are ready to run this summer and this season. I also know that in November and December last year, when I was at my best, I played as well as I did several years before. It was incredibly fun. If I can I find a situation where I play and deliver like that — why not continue?”