Yesterday marked the end of an era.
Henrik Lundqvist, the goalie for the New York Rangers for the last 15 years and a surefire Hall of Famer, was bought out by the organization with one year left on his seven-year, $59-million contract he signed in 2014.
The decision to buyout the 38-year-old was almost written on the wall ever since the arrival of Igor Shesterkin — the organization’s highly-touted Russian goalie — towards the middle of the season, and the rise of 24-year-old Alexander Georgiev the past two seasons. Still, it was a painful day not just for Rangers fans, but for all hockey fans in the metropolitan area who watched Lundqvist’s reign to becoming one of the greatest goalies ever.
Lundqvist truly was a King. And New York was his kingdom, especially from the hockey portion of the sports landscape in the area. He was the best player — other than the short stint of Jaromir Jagr — at his position of any of the three Metro teams from the moment he made his debut.
But that time has come to an end. A new king shall arise.
The question now is, who will be the next to take the throne? There’s plenty of worthy candidates who all have a case.
The youngster who was being groomed to be the heir-apparent to Lundqvist. He’s now the Blueshirts’ starting goaltender and will be for the foreseeable future. Shesterkin showed the fans and his teammates all the hype was real about him — and that he could very well be a dominant force moving forward — when he went 10–2-0 in his 12 starts before the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the hockey season.
The future looks bright for Shesterkin and the Rangers. And he has all the capabilities of being the ruler of the sport in this town if all things play out.
Shesterkin isn’t the only new name on the scene that might help lead to New York’s next great era of hockey. His Russian counterpart, Ilya Sorokin, is now officially with the Islanders, and he is positioned to be the franchise goaltender on Long Island for hopefully the next decade.
The 25-year-old Sorokin was a king in his own right back in his native homeland and oozes winning and star power. He could very much take this market by storm with those traits and if he’s backstopping the Isles back to the glory days they once had back in the early 80s.
Panarin has only called New York home for one year, but it’s already proven that he’s become one of the best athletes in any of the four major sports. We know he was already a household name before he arrived last summer, now though, the 28-year-old has a strong chance of being the next one to take the thrown around here. The guy is a superstar — he was a Hart Trophy candidate this past season — and he’s got that infectious personality which makes him a joy to watch play (the Rockette goal celebration is also very Broadway).
Panarin is going to be here for a while, another six years to be exact. In that time, the Rangers have the makings of being a powerhouse and he as the face of it all.
As the Islanders continue to build toward a perennial winner, it’s Barzal who has become the face of the franchise and who the entire league recognizes when the franchise is mentioned.
Only 23, Barzal has already accomplished some great things in his career, including a Calder Trophy back in 2017-18. And he’s not even close to being the star everyone knows he’s capable of being. Beyond that, Barzal — most likely being an Islander for the next decade and more — has the off the ice qualifications too.
He’s got his own style. His flow has made him an internet sensation. And he’s got the look of someone who you’d put on a billboard.
All of that resonates around these parts.
Look everyone can discredit New Jersey as not being a part of the NY hockey landscape, but they still are very much a part of the fabric and its history. That’s why Jack Hughes gets a nod on this list.
The number one pick overall in 2019, Hughes is just at the beginning of his career. He was a superstar during his time at the U.S. National Development Program, and the hope is it will be the same for his time over the next number of years with the Devils. The franchise is leaning on him to bring back those years of consistent winning and championships.
Hughes is just 19, so he’s still raw. But he could very much own this town if he can help turn the Devs around and live up to his top pick status.
The kid picked right after Hughes at last summer’s draft, Kaapo Kakko is also just starting what hopes to be an excellent career on Broadway. Kakko definitely showed his warts as a freshman this past year, but the greatness which made him a top-2 pick flashed on a number of occasions. Being from Finland, he’s another European export who is expected to be one of the major pieces to the puzzle for the Rangers.
Kakko said when he first landed in New York, “it’s a nice city”. Well, the city has the chance to be his very much down the road.
Hischier, who also plays on the Jersey side of the Hudson, has quietly become one of the best players in the area. Another former top overall pick, he’s trying to bring the Devils back to respectability; and he has in some ways. He also is only getting better.
Just 21, he might be the best player in the area down the line.
The Blueshirts are loaded for the future as said above. Zibanejad is on that list. He’s become one of the synonymous names on Broadway and had the best season of his career in 2019-20.
Zibanejad is also the kind of star who can shine big in the city.
The guy is a DJ in his own right and has released his own music. That’s a total win-win if you’re looking for the next guy to be the face of the sport in the city. Add in winning, and Zibanejad is a sneaky contender for the crown.
The soon-to-be number one pick, next Tuesday to be exact. LaFreniere has been compared to some of the greats playing in the game right now, and he will have the Worlds Most Famous Arena — Madison Square Garden — as his playground. The 18-year-old phenom has already expressed his love for the city and the chance to play with another star at the top of this list, Panarin.
He’s going to get his chance. Aside from that, he’s got all the hype of being Broadway’s next big hit, pardon the pun.
That itself could make him the next in line to wear the crown.
Who do you think will be the next king of hockey in New York?