The Rangers bought out the contract of goalie Henrik Lundqvist on Wednesday, parting ways with the veteran goalie who has largely been the face of the franchise since he entered the league in 2005. Lundqvist, 38, had one year remaining on the seven-year, $59.5 million ($8.5 million AAV) deal he signed with the team in 2013.
With the buyout, Lundqvist will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. If he chooses to continue playing, it's strongly believed he'll look to join a contending team as he chases a Stanley Cup ring.
Lundqvist expressed his gratitude for his 15-year career with the Rangers in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
"Representing this organization has been the biggest source of pride and joy in my life," Lundqvist wrote. "I'm so grateful for the opportunity, for the friendships and for all the great memories created wearing the red, white and blue."
Similarly, the Rangers had kind words for the goalie, saying "You always have been, and always will be, a Ranger."
The buyout comes as the Rangers continue building with the big picture in mind. This past season, the club saw the emergence of young Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin, who appears to be the team's future in net. With Lundqvist, Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev all proving to be capable and worthy of a roster spot, the Rangers found themselves with a logjam in the crease.
Considering Lundqvist's age and cap hit, it's not entirely shocking that the veteran is the odd man out. But it does mark the end of a pretty remarkable era in New York.
After being drafted in the seventh round in 2000, Hank became a franchise icon, establishing new club records with 459 victories (sixth-most in NHL history), 64 shutouts and 61 postseason wins. In 887 career games played, Lunqdvist boasts a 2.43 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
He won a Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender in 2011-2012 and was named a finalist four additional times.
Lundqvist failed to capture a Stanley Cup win in his 15 seasons with the Rangers but not due to lack of effort or performance between the pipes. He led the team to 11 playoff berths in his first 12 seasons, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, where New York lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
Lundqvist's career postseason numbers are impressive -- 130 games played, a 2.30 goals against average with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers become a lot more impressive with the context that a lot of his playoff teams over the years were weak defensively.
He has also been fiercely loyal to the Rangers over the years. As the team publicly announced their intention to rebuild in 2018, the club asked Lundqvist whether he wanted to be traded to a team that would give him a better chance at competing for a Stanley Cup. Lundqvist declined, instead opting to stay with the Rangers through that rebuilding effort.
Now, he'll have to decide whether he wants to retire having only donned one jersey over the entirety of his NHL career, or whether he wants to join another franchise on a short-term, relatively short-money deal for a chance to chase a Cup.
Either way, Lundqvist's place in Rangers history is secure, and his No. 30 jersey will hang in the rafters at Madison Square Garden sooner rather than later.