In 2014-15, Henrik Lundqvist will have a new contract.
The first question is “how much?”, as in whether or not his cap hit will climb higher than Alex Ovechkin’s NHL-leading $9,538,462; Larry Brooks of the NY Post has speculated that Lundqvist’s cap hit could climb as high as the $9.5 million neighborhood. He makes $6.875 million against the cap now.
The second question is “how long?”, and it’s one that Lundqvist seems to be struggling with himself.
Marie Lehmann of SVT sat down with Lundqvist to discuss his future with the New York Rangers, and when asked if he’d be down with an eight-year contract – the longest duration the Rangers could give him – Lundqvist said:
"There are more ways than one to go here. We'll see"
One assumes the Rangers will want to go eight years with arguably the best goalie in the NHL. It may not bring down his cap hit, as Lundqvist can basically name his price at this point, but it would solidify the position for the next decade, assuming Lundqvist will have a Brodeur-ian career in which he’s effective nearing 40.
Is it the right move for the Rangers?
Five goalies will have contracts of seven or more years in 2014-15, assuming none are bought out: Roberto Luongo, Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Again: assuming none are bought out. Luongo was on the verge of one, Fleury could still receive one. The jury’s out on Rask as a goalie with the long-term deal rather than playing for one. Quick and Rinne are, obviously, sound investments but younger than Lundqvist (31) when they signed.
What’s best for Lundqvist?
That depends on what Henrik Lundqvist wants.
According to the man himself, it’s to win. Who can forget his “we’ll see” response after the Rangers were ousted by the Boston Bruins last postseason? Via ESPN:
"I’m going to talk to my agent and we’ll see," Lundqvist said. "I had such a great time here in New York. From day one, they treated me really well and [have] given me an opportunity to play a lot of hockey, so it’s been a lot of fun. I have one more year on the contract, but I’m just focused right now on trying to get over this year."
He’s tired of having to be THE MAN every postseason, keeping offensively challenged teams in series with stellar play until the goal droughts dry up the Rangers’ Cup chances. Maybe that’s a John Tortorella problem solved by the hiring of Alain Vigneault, or maybe that’s a personnel problem laid at the expensive loafers of Glen Sather.
Whatever the case, can you blame Lundqvist?
He’s the best player on the team, by far. He’s the best goalie in the East, potentially the League, potentially the world. And yet he’s been handed the kind of goal support in the playoffs Tim Howard can expect. (Because hockey fans can only make fun of soccer as an offensively challenged sport.)
So Sather has two options. Either overload him with cash on a four of five-year-deal, lock him down for his remaining good years and take the risk that he finishes his career elsewhere, or simply bite the bullet, go the eight-year route and overpay him for the last couple seasons in order to have the greatest keeper in team history retire as a Ranger.
I’d wager on Option 3: Long-term deal, with a huge cap hit.
A King’s ransom.