VANCOUVER -- Henrik Lundqvist said he suspected it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier for the goaltender to see the New York Rangers transformed before the NHL Trade Deadline.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller were traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on deadline day Monday for forward Vladislav Namestnikov, a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, a conditional first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, forward prospect Brett Howden and defenseman prospect Libor Hajek.
"I woke up today and it's almost like you can't believe it," Lundqvist said Tuesday. "It's been so many years playing together, going through so many things, and it's just a different team."
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New York also traded forward Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins on Sunday for forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, defenseman prospect Ryan Lindgren, a first-round pick in 2018 and a seventh-round pick in 2019; forward Michael Grabner to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday for a second-round pick in 2018 and defenseman prospect Yegor Rykov; and defenseman Nick Holden to the Bruins on Feb. 20 for defenseman Rob O'Gara a third-round pick in 2018.
"It's been a really tough stretch here for a few weeks knowing this might happen," said Lundqvist, 35, who has played all 13 of his NHL seasons for the Rangers and is signed through 2020-21. "A big part of our team, good friends, they are gone. … I've never experienced anything like this. It was new, but I totally understand where we are and what needs to be done."
The Rangers (27-30-6), who play at the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SNP, MSG, NHL.TV), are nine points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They have made the playoffs in 11 of Lundqvist's previous 12 seasons, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
New York announced its intention to trade popular players and turn its focus to the future in a letter to fans and a press conference Feb. 8. Nash, Grabner and Holden each can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Trading the 28-year-old McDonagh, the Rangers captain since 2014 who is signed through next season, and the 24-year-old Miller, New York's second-leading scorer with 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) who can become a restricted free agent July 1, was a bolder step.
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"You expect people to get traded but when it really happens it's sad," said forward Mats Zuccarello, 30, who has played all eight of his NHL seasons with the Rangers. "The atmosphere has been better in here, for sure, but for now this is our team and we can focus on playing hockey."
Namestnikov, 25, set NHL career highs with 20 goals, 24 assists and 44 points in 62 games this season with Tampa Bay. He is expected to join the Rangers in Vancouver on Wednesday.
Spooner, 26, had two assists in his Rangers debut, a 3-2 overtime loss against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. Gara played almost 20 minutes in each of his past two games (19:54, 19:41).
"We have to make the most of this," Lundqvist said. "We'll see where it takes us but the most important thing right now is to restart the whole thing because it feels like it is a new team."