The most stable dynamic of the New York Rangers' second-round series in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs was the play of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Even when speaking in a general sense about the Rangers, Lundqvist is likely the most reliable member of the team.
However, the franchise's most consistent player appears to be developing cold feet.
Lundqvist will be entering the final year of a six-year, $41.25 million contract in 2013-14 and will be eligible to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2014. When asked whether he would consider negotiating an extension with the Rangers this summer, Lundqvist gave an answer that has "unsettled" some people, via The New York Daily News:
"I'm gonna talk to my agent, and we'll see. You know, I had such a great time here in New York. From day one they treated me really well and have given me an opportunity to play a lot of hockey. It's been a lot of fun. I have one more year on the contract. I'm just focused on - well, right now, I'm trying to get over this year - but we'll see. I'll talk to my agent and take it from there."
This statement raises the question of whether Lundqvist would consider leaving for greener pastures. Based on statements he has made in the past, as well as comments on Monday, winning appears to be the primary motivating factor for the 31-year-old goaltender.
"I thought we had an opportunity with the team and the skill we had in the room to really go for it [...] I still think it was a fun year, but not a year that I think that ... I'll just say this: I don't think it was good enough for us. So I'm hoping for more."
That leads to whether the Rangers will be in a position to win over the next couple of years. In all likelihood, this is something Lundqvist will want his agent to find out. Since making his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season, the Rangers have finished higher than third place in their division twice (last two consecutive seasons) and have advanced beyond the semifinal round of the playoffs once.
In addition, the franchise appears to be at an unstable point given that head coach John Tortorella might be nearing the end of his tenure. Combine that with the roster upheaval dating back to last summer (trade several pieces for Rick Nash, trade Marian Gaborik and then potentially buyout Brad Richards) and you have a situation that might not be ideal for a star player looking for a championship. Lundqvist's opinion on those decisions could factor in his choice to stay. In fact, every decision the organization makes from here on out will factor in Lundqvist's desire to remain with the team.
In some instances, it's important to apply pressure to get a desired result. The San Jose Sharks struggled after the opening month of the season. Rumors began surfacing about the team looking to trade players, which ultimately resulted in Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe being moved. However, other players rumored to be on the trading block remained with the team. The Sharks are now one win away from the Western Conference Final. Some believe general manager Doug Wilson wanted to convey to his players that they needed to perform or there could be consequences.
The same could be true of Lundqvist with the Rangers.
Of course, that's merely an interpretation.
At the root of it, Lundqvist's comments are rather innocuos, but they also display the leverage he has. In all probability, it will be the final time in his career that he has that kind of power. What gain does he get from exclaiming his desire to stay with the club? Not much. Logically, it's a smart move to discuss his future with his agent and allowing that individual to discuss his future publicly. That's the reason he pays an agent. The situation surrounding the Rangers is what seemingly implies a more toxic overtone.
Whatever the case might be, Lundqvist won't be short on options when he does make a decision about his future.