Henrik Lundqvist is likely to remain a career Ranger after it was confirmed by the team that he had been signed to a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension that will begin next season. The move is very interesting considering his age and the Blueshirts' cap situation, so the move isn't exactly a slam dunk.
Lundqvist was going to get paid, but the Rangers now will have a harder time shaping their roster for the future with so much money invested in their franchise netminder.
With that in mind, here are the winners and losers of the Lundqvist extension.
Winner: James Dolan, Owner
Dolan is the owner of the Rangers, and Lundqvist is the Rangers' biggest star. By keeping Lundqvist on the team, he will continue to make tons of money through advertising, ticket sales and other hockey-related revenue. Lundqvist also is one of the top athletes who works with the Garden of Dreams Foundation, so Dolan is a big winner by having his star locked up for the next seven years.
Winner: Goalies Around the NHL
NHL goalies historically have not been paid as much as their skater brethren, but that is going to change over the next few years. Lundqvist's deal of $8.5 million a year exceeds the previous top salary of Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask by $1.5 million.
|Highest-Paid NHL Goaltenders Starting In 2014-15|
It also puts Lundqvist into a class of players that includes Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby in terms of monetary value. This is a huge deal in terms of the salary structure of the NHL, and there will be a trickle-down effect in the coming years.
For example, here are goalies who are set to become free agents and what their current cap hits are.
|2014 Notable Free-Agent Goaltenders|
Lundqvist's salary increase will cause a chain reaction that will allow other goalies throughout the league to leverage more money. Ryan Miller in particular will love this deal because of the statistical similarities he shares with the Rangers' netminder.
Winner: The 2013-2017 Rangers
While the deal's length is not the greatest, the Rangers have locked up one of the NHL's top netminders for the rest of this decade. He likely will remain an elite goaltender until age 36 or 37 barring injury, so the Blueshirts should have a number of opportunities to contend for the Stanley Cup.
There is no guarantee of this, but this deal is a win considering Lundqvist's stature.
Basically, these are three of the biggest winners of the Lundqvist signing. Obviously, Lundqvist wins big, but in addition to that, the team retains a key member of the franchise, ownership will continue to profit off of the team's biggest star and Lundqvist's goalie brethren now have some ammunition when asking for higher wages.
While the deal seems positive given Lundqvist's importance to the team, there are some negatives that come with this massive deal, and below are three of the biggest losers in this deal.
Loser: The NHL
The NHL sought to get rid of bogus contracts during the last lockout, and this contract comes across as a slap in the face. There is a slim chance that Lundqvist will finish this contract with the Rangers, so it can be assumed that the extra years at the end of this deal were added to dilute Lundqvist's cap hit. The cap hit is rather large to begin with, and this will ultimately impact the Blueshirts' salary-cap situation.
Bob McKenzie's breakdown of the first and last year of Lundqvist's contract really hammers home the above point.
Loser: Glen Sather, General Manager
The Rangers overpaid Lundqvist, plain and simple. He has accomplished great things since entering the league, as noted by this tweet from John Buccigross of ESPN, but he hasn't been good enough for the team to win a championship.
This is not to blame Lundqvist for the Rangers' playoff failures, but it is a statement of fact. Goaltenders with less talent than Lundqvist have won the Stanley Cup, and they were able to do this because of a talented team in front of them.
The 2010 Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers is a good example of this, and it shows that average goaltending can get you to a championship. This year, there have been examples of goalies like Josh Harding, Ben Scrivens, Ben Bishop and assorted others coming out of nowhere.
While the Rangers wouldn't have ever entertained an idea like this, other teams have had success with goaltenders that collected a small paycheck.
Here is a chart of the last couple of Stanley Cup winners and how much each goaltender made.
|List of Stanley Cup Winners During Salary-Cap Era|
|2010-11||BOS||Tim Thomas||$5,000,000||Same Contract|
|2008-09||PIT||Marc-Andre Fleury||$5,000,000||Same Contract|
|2006-07||ANA||J.S. Giguere||$6,000,000||Same Contract|
|Cap Geek / Hockey Zone Plus|
I'm not saying that Lundqvist should have walked, but spending less on goaltending and more on scoring has been an effective strategy with Cup winners.
For the most part, the above teams spent little on goaltending and more on forwards. The Chicago Blackhawks, for example, spent money on Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and assorted others.
The Los Angeles Kings spent money on Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and assorted others. The list goes on and on, and it speaks to the simple fact that scoring can trump goaltending.
Loser: Rangers' Salary Cap
Barring a massive increase in the salary cap, the Blueshirts are pretty much S.O.L. for free agency this year.
For a better explanation, here is a chart to help clear things up (projections based off current salary cap).
|New York Rangers' Upcoming Salary-Cap Situation|
|Michael Del Zotto||RFA||N/A||N/A|
If you buy out Brad Richards, roughly $7 million in space is opened, but that also means they need to sign another player. In this situation, the Rangers will have between $26 and $32 million to ice a roster, which may or may not include free-agents Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, John Moore and Michael Del Zotto.
There are also going to be role depth spots to be filled, and that could cost a considerable chunk as well.
Lundqvist was going to get paid like a star, but his new deal is going to take up a lot of cap room over the next few seasons. The slight increase in his salary is minimal, but in context, that money could have been divided amongst a few players.
The Rangers have known for the past few seasons that goal scoring was an issue, so it will be interesting to see how they remake their roster while remaining cap compliant.
All in all, it is hard to complain because the Blueshirts have locked up a quality netminder for the rest of the decade. However, they have made a risk by giving a goaltender a contract that takes up a good deal of cap space.
Time and time again, Lundqvist has been solid for the Rangers, but the lack of scoring has resulted in several playoff exits. Unless Lundqvist is going to start scoring goals, spending money to keep the team status quo makes little sense.
While the Rangers weren't going to turn to a goalie like Jonas Hiller or Ryan Miller in free agency, it would have made sense to work out a hometown discount with Lundqvist. He remains adamant that his No. 1 goal is to win a Stanley Cup, but this contract could tie the Rangers' hands when it comes to assembling a championship roster.
It is great that the Rangers secured a player that could go down as the greatest goaltender in franchise history, but he isn't going to be the sole difference-maker in whether or not they win a Stanley Cup.
The monetary commitment and the effects it could have going forward are speculative, but the Rangers couldn't allow their franchise netminder to leave New York. No one has questioned Lundqvist's worth to the franchise up to this point, but the end of this contract will ultimately play a role in defining his legacy as a Ranger.
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