Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers have decided to end the wait, end the speculation and end the questions about whether or not a looming contract extension was weighing too heavily on the franchise goalie.
Lundqvist has agreed to a 7-year, $59.5-million contract with the Rangers that will run through his 38th birthday. He previously had a 6-year, $41.25-million deal that ran through this season.
That’s an average salary cap hit of $8.5 million, putting Lundqvist fifth overall in terms of cap hits for the 2014-15 season, when the contract kicks in. Only Alex Ovechkin ($9.54 million), Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million), Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million) and Corey Perry ($8.625 million) carry a higher hit.
Lundqvist has the richest contract, from a cap perspective, in NHL history for a goaltender. Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators previously shared that distinction at $7 million.
A few thoughts/concerns/reactions to the deal …
I can’t believe the Rangers wanted to go seven years with Lundqvist or any goaltender north of 30 years old. But this was what his camp was asking for – reports were that they actually wanted a max contract of eight years – and the Rangers had to relent. There was no alternative. Lundqvist was only going to sign a long-term deal.
The cap hit is going to be ridiculed. It’s going to be mocked. It’s going to be seen as dramatic overpayment.
That’s all misguided. You can argue against Lundqvist’s lack of postseason achievement, or that some other goalie playing in Claude Julien’s system and behind Zdeno Chara is the better netminder, but the fact is that Lundqvist has proven he belongs in the conversation with Crosby and Malkin and Ovechkin for being the best at what he does.
And look at how those guys get paid.
(Save the “but he’s never won anything!” stuff. No, he’s not a perfect playoff goalie, but he’s also someone that had John Tortorella’s offense for goal support during many of those years.)
If Lundqvist went UFA, he gets $9 million against the cap. And he probably gets it from the New York Islanders.
Part of the financial lamenting about this contract is the fact that Lundqvist will be 38 in its final season, and the Rangers will be paying a 38-year-old goalie $8.5 million.
(Never mind the obvious counterpoint, which is that we have no idea if that salary will be seen as a bargain or not, considering where the cap is headed.)
Patrick Roy was still posting a .925 save percentage at 36 years old. Martin Brodeur went on a Cup run over 40. Miikka Kiprusoff, Dominik Hasek, Tim Thomas … it’s not out of the question that Lundqvist is going to join those guys as a goalie that still posts freakishly strong numbers past 35 years old.
Of course, the real answer here is that Lundqvist is going to be elite for at least the next four years. But to get those years, the Rangers had to buy his potential decline as well. And it's not like MSG doesn't have the money to buy him out if he falls apart at 37.
Again: The contract term is the difference between having Henrik Lundqvist as your starting goaltender for the foreseeable future or having a position that’s a given today become a question mark tomorrow.
Bitching about the term or what his contract will look like in 2021 is pointless – the Rangers want to win the Cup in the next five years (Nash goes UFA in 2018) and Lundqvist is the key to that effort. It's a deal that had to get done, and hopefully for Lundqvist his season stabilizes now that it is.