Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has one year remaining on his contract with the New York Rangers, and he admits it's difficult to envision a scenario in which he's wearing another jersey at the start of the 2014-15 season.
"The way the organization and fans have treated me and how much I've enjoyed it, it's hard to picture myself playing elsewhere," Lundqvist told Swedish TV network SVT2 when asked about his future with the Rangers and signing a new contract, according to translations by SVT's Marie Lehmann via her Twitter account.
"If a new contract is signed or not before the season starts, I can't let it affect my game. It's obviously going to be a very important part of my career, this next contract, there's no reason for me to deny that."
-- Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist, 31, is eligible to sign an eight-year contract extension with the Rangers but would not commit to a deal that likely would keep him in New York for the rest of his NHL career.
"There are more ways than one to go here," he said. "We'll see."
Lundqvist is in Sweden for the national team's Olympic orientation camp. He is expected to be Sweden's starting goaltender at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has arguably been the NHL's most consistent goaltender since joining the Rangers in 2005. He is the only goaltender in NHL history to win 30 or more games in each of his first seven seasons, a streak ended by the lockout that shortened 2012-13 to 48 games. He had a 24-16-3 record, a 2.05 goals-against average and a save percentage of .926 last season, when he was a Vezina finalist for the fifth time in his eight NHL seasons.
The Rangers are coming off a disappointing season in which they finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading to the firing of coach John Tortorella, who was replaced by Alain Vigneault.
The sides have had conversations about a new contract. Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gordon said last week “Henrik wants to be here and we want Henrik … it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a deal … I think we will get one done.”
Lundqvist said regardless of whether he reaches an agreement with the Rangers, he can't let his contract status affect his performance.
"If a new contract is signed or not before the season starts, I can't let it affect my game," he said.
"It's obviously going to be a very important part of my career, this next contract, there's no reason for me to deny that."