“It’s time”: Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist retires at 39

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FILE – Then-New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist looks on from the bench during an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres in New York, in this Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, file photo. Henrik Lundqvist is abandoning a long-shot attempt to return from open-heart surgery in time to play for the Washington Capitals this season after a checkup last week showed some inflammation. Lundqvist tweeted Sunday, April 11, 2021, that the inflammation around his heart requires a few months of rest and recovery. The 39-year-old goaltender had set the goal for himself of trying to join the Capitals before the end of the season. (AP Photo/Jim McIsaac, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The King has called it a career.

Henrik Lundqvist, one of the greatest goaltenders of his generation, announced his retirement Friday less than nine months after heart surgery.

“It’s time,” the 39-year-old Lundqvist wrote in a social media post. “For the last 30 years, I have devoted my life to the game of hockey and now it’s time to walk away from the game I love and begin a new chapter.”

Lundqvist a lso told the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper he needs a new heart procedure.

“We will see how extensive it will be,” he said. “Treatments are getting better, so we will see if they’ll open up the chest or not. But that will be a problem for the future.”

The Swede starred for years for the New York Rangers, where he piled up 459 wins along with a a 2.43 goals-against average and 64 shutouts in 15 seasons.

He is sixth in NHL history in wins, seventh in saves (23,509), eighth in games played (887), ninth in starts (871), ninth in time on ice (51,816:51) and 17th in shutouts, according to the NHL.

He also helped Sweden win gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

The Rangers bought out Lundqvist’s contact in September 2020 and he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals in October. He never took the ice after announcing he had a heart condition. The five-time All Star had surgery in January, but didn’t begin workouts until last month and became an unrestricted free agent July 28.

The man known as “King Henrik” was wildly popular and his departure from the Rangers was painful to many fans, even if it was expected with Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev waiting in the wings. His deal with Washington came with the hope of Lundqvist earning his first Stanley Cup championship.

Instead, he will head into retirement. Lundqvist said he was excited about the future but did not detail specific plans.

“There are many things I love about the game: From the excitement I felt as an 8-year-old at my first practice to the 15 years of butterflies I had every time I took the ice in the greatest city in the world,” he wrote. “I’m extremely grateful for what hockey has brought me and taught me in life. These lessons will never leave me.”

Lundqvist appeared in 887 NHL regular-season games, plus another 130 in the playoffs. He won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie in 2011-12 and he came close to a championship in 2014, leading the Rangers to the Cup Final. He lost postseason series to the Capitals in 2009 and 2011, then eliminated them in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

The Rangers released a statement that ended with the line:

“Henrik is, and always will be, a Ranger.”

The team said the retirement was met with mixed emotions and offered the longtime face of the organization its best wishes and heartfelt gratitude. It plans to retire his No. 30 in a ceremony at a game this season.

“Henrik’s commitment to excellence made him one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game of hockey, and we are so fortunate to have witnessed his greatness firsthand for 15 years,” the team said.

Lundqvist owns almost every record for goalies in Rangers history, including victories, shutouts, playoff wins and games played. He also excelled under pressure. Lundqvist set an NHL record by winning six consecutive Game 7s, a streak later broken by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. He set an Olympic record for longest shutout streak (172:34) between the 2006 and 2010 Games.

Lundqvist, who plays guitar and has been known to play charity events with tennis great John McEnroe, was a finalist for the NHL Player Foundation Award in 2014-15 for his work with the Garden of Dreams Foundation in New York. His own foundation strives to create positive change in the lives of children and adults throughout the world through education and health services.

“I dreamt of playing hockey with and against the best in the world,” he said in Swedish in another social media post. “When I now turn the page to a new chapter, I do it with a big smile. It is time to turn my attention to new goals, we will see where the new journey takes us.”

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AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed.

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