So much for the Cam Talbot “controversy” on Broadway.
After months of will-he-or-won’t he speculation, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has signed a seven-year, $59.5-million extension with the New York Rangers. The deal carries an $8.5-million cap hit and makes him the NHL’s highest-paid goaltender. Actually, as per capgeek.com, Lundqvist will be the league’s fifth-priciest player next season, behind only Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry, a.k.a. four Hart Trophy winners.
The good: The Blueshirts have locked up the most consistent goaltender of the salary cap era. Excluding the shortened 2012-13 season, Lundqvist has at least 53 appearances and 30 wins every season since 2005-06, his rookie campaign. He’s never posted a goals-against average above 2.43 or a save percentage below .912. He won the 2011-12 Vezina Trophy and, for all the talk of him not “doing it in the playoffs,” Lundqvist has a .920 save percentage and eight shutouts in 67 post-season appearances. In an era when starting goalie turnover is faster than that of dishwashers at your local Boston Pizza, Lundqvist was a throwback to a different time, a rare netminder who was the star of his team. He’s also much, much cooler than all of us.
The bad: That’s just it. Goalies do in fact grow on trees now. The NHL leaders in save percentage and shutouts, Josh Harding and Ben Scrivens, are Vezina frontrunners and backup goaltenders. As I like to say, the very fact the Predators found Pekka Rinne was the same reason they shouldn’t have signed him to a seven-year, $49-million extension. He was an eighth-round pick and retaining him may or may not have cost the Preds Ryan Suter. Lundqvist was a seventh-rounder. The standard of the position is so high today that quality goaltending is easier to find than it’s ever been. The NHL wins leader over the past two seasons: undrafted Antti Niemi.
The ugly: ‘King Henrik’ will be 39 by the time his deal expires and his cap hit is crippling. Among the unsigned Rangers for 2014-15: Ryan Callahan (unrestricted free agent), Derick Brassard (restricted), Brian Boyle (UFA), Chris Kreider (RFA), Dan Girardi (UFA) and Michael Del Zotto (RFA). Brad Richards is shifting uncomfortably in his chair. The Rangers didn’t use their amnesty buyout on him this past summer, but the crosshairs may fall on his $6.7-million cap hit next time around.
On the bright side, the contract should bode well for Lundqvist’s play in the short term. It’s a vote of confidence for a goaltender who is reportedly perturbed by the amount of playing time given to Talbot, the rookie backup, of late. A fresh and well-fed Lundqvist is just what the Rangers want for the playoffs – should they get there.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News’s and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin