- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- So, the Rangers paid Henrik Lundqvist a king’s ransom. Was there really any other way?
The Rangers had no choice other than to lock up their franchise goaltender and there was never any doubt that it was going to be cheap. Letting the former Vezina Trophy winner walk and sign elsewhere, for more money, on July 1? That wasn’t going to happen, so let’s take a step back and analyze the deal -- a seven-year, $59.5 million extension that averages out to $8.5 million annually and also includes a full no-move clause.
Let’s entertain some critics here and concede that there are some legitimate concerns about a deal of this magnitude.
The term: Lundqvist will be 32 when the extension kicks in, 39 when the deal expires in 2021. Lundqvist’s camp initially wanted the maximum length as permitted by the new collective bargaining agreement -- eight years -- but the Rangers didn’t want to go the distance. Lundqvist wanted the security of remaining a Ranger for the rest of his entire career, and this still pretty much ensures that he does.
Though his play has dipped this season, there is plenty of reason to believe that Lundqvist has lots of good hockey left in him. In fact, looking at his body of work over the last eight seasons, compared to the small sample size of this year (plus mitigating factors such as the team’s training camp schedule, nine-game road trip to start the season and the minor shoulder injury that hampered him in October), it’s much more reasonable to assume that the decline is the exception and not the rule. But to be fair, the latter half of the contract has to be a concern when considering whether Lundqvist can sustain this level of play. As Dave Lozo of Bleacher Report points out, only five goaltenders in the history of the NHL have posted a save percentage of .920 or higher while playing over 60 games in a 35 or over season.
The price: The guy has been nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist in five of his last eight seasons and has impressive numbers during his tenure in New York (284-182-57, 2.26 and .920 save percentage in 531 career appearances). He has been voted the team’s MVP seven times. We all knew he was going to be asking for a raise. Consider this: the average annual value of his new deal is not THAT much more than what he makes now $6.875. And GM Glen Sather said it himself in Wednesday's press conference. Lundqvist would've made more had he waited it out to test the market as a free agent July 1.
Could you argue that he’ll be overpaid, especially if his play regresses the last few years of the deal as most people anticipate? Sure, but the amount that the two sides would’ve been haggling over seems pretty negligible when you take into account the larger picture, plus the anticipated increase in salary cap.
Even with hefty contracts such as the ones on the books from Lundqvist, Rick Nash and Brad Richards, the Rangers should still be able to sign impending unrestricted free agents Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman, provided that none of them ask for exorbitant raises.
At the end of the day, goaltenders like Lundqvist are nearly impossible to find. He has been as consistent and as durable as any team could ask. He has stood on his head and carried the team on his back countless times. He’s the face of the franchise.
Sometimes it pays not to be cheap. Lundqvist is a proud guy and fierce competitor. The last thing you want are protracted contract negotiations dragging on, planting seeds of doubt and straining his relationship with the club.
You have a star like that, pay him the big bucks.