The goalie controversy in New York is officially over.
TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting that Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers have come to terms on a massive extension that will pay the netminder an average of $8.5 million over the next seven years.
Lundqvist is in the final season of his current six-year, $41.25 million contract, and was due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s having a sub-par year by his standards (8-11-0, 2.51 goals-against average, .917 save percentage) and is reportedly struggling to adjust to the smaller equipment that the NHL mandated this season for all goaltenders.
Still, there’s no denying that he’s one of the league’s top goalies — he won the Vezina Trophy in 2011-12, and was the runner-up to Sergei Bobrovsky in last year’s Vezina polling — and it would have been astonishing if the two sides didn’t come to an agreement.
But was this the right deal?
Few would argue that Lundqvist doesn’t deserve to be paid like the league’s best goalie. That’s just what he’ll be next year, when his average annual value of $8.5 million will put him above the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask ($7.5 million) and the Predators’ Pekka Rinne ($7 million).
Yes, that’s a crazy stack of cash, but you know the drill. If New York hadn’t given it to him, someone else (“Garth Snow on line one”) would have been more than happy to drive Lundqvist to the vault this summer.
There’s no way of knowing what the cap implications of the deal are, since we don’t have a handle on where the ceiling will be in years to come. But it’s a safe bet that it’s going up — way, way up — in the wake of last week’s $5.2 billion Canadian TV deal, so there’s probably no reason for concern here.
But if Rangers fans are determined to complain — hey, that’s what fans do, right? — they should focus on the length of the contract, not the amount.
It was thought that New York wanted to limit the deal for the 31-year-old to four years, five at the most, with an eye on the historical trend of deteriorating play for goalies as they age past their mid-30s.
Lundqvist will be 39 when this deal expires. That’s a point at which most guys are in the Old Goalies’ Home, talking about the time they stonewalled Sweeney Schriner. But it’s not like a guy who is pushing 40 has never experienced success in this league. Just two years ago, Martin Brodeur led the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals at age 40. Patrick Roy won 35 games for the Avalanche at 38. Dominik Hasek went 38-11-6 for the Red Wings at 42. Tim Thomas won the 2011 Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies at 37. It’s not inconceivable that Lundqvist could experience similar success toward the end of this deal.
Still, this contract is more about the next four years, rather than the final three. If Lundqvist plays the game at a world-class level over that stretch, whatever comes after is gravy.
And what’s it all mean for Cam Talbot, the backup who went from anonymity to “the future of the franchise” during the last month? It’s too early to tell how much upside he has, but he’s certainly opened some eyes with his recent play. Lundqvist’s new deal shouldn’t impact Talbot’s ice time, since coach Alain Vigneault’s job demands that the Rangers win now. Talbot will continue to get his starts and when he does, he has to make the most of them, with the hopes of attracting the eye of another team that’s looking to trade for a kid with potential.
Until that happens, he might want to put Jonathan Bernier and Cory Schneider on speed dial.