Henrik Lundqvist’s six year, $41.25 million contract was set to expire after the 2013-14 season, and the New York Rangers had two options: extend him before that contract expired or wait until free agency.
Had the Rangers waited until free agency, his extension could have become more expensive than originally thought, or they risked losing him. The fact was – and remains – the Rangers needed Lundqvist.
Investing a lot of cap space into one player has its risks, as does signing a 31-year-old (who was 32 at the time that contract began) to a long-term deal. For a generational talent like Lundqvist that carried his team year after year, however, it’s a risk worth taking because the Rangers simply wouldn’t have been able to accomplish most of what they have without him in net.
On December 4, 2013, the Rangers and Lundqvist signed a seven year, $59.9 million extension to keep The King in New York. Throughout the life of this deal, Lundqvist has a no-movement clause and carries an $8.5 million cap hit, though his actual salary varies from $11 million in 2014-15 to $5.5 million in 2020-21. Had Lundqvist reached the open market, teams could have offered him shorter term deals to match his higher estimated value at the time, leaving the Rangers without their starter.
At the time of his signing, his $8.5 million cap hit and salary in the first year of the contract were the highest of any active goaltender. Moving into this upcoming season, his $9 million salary and cap hit still are the highest among goaltenders. But by the 2018-19 season, he’ll move into second place, as Carey Price’s $15 million salary and $10.5 million cap hit will become the highest.
General managers don’t have the benefit of hindsight, so transactions, including contract signings, have to be judged based on how they fit the needs of the team at that time. At the time of Lundqvist’s extension, he boasted a .921 save percentage and a 19.90 goals saved above average. In addition, the stability he provided in net, and his ability to lead the team to all of the success they enjoyed, made this contract worthwhile for both Lundqvist and the Rangers.
A goaltender can be the great equalizer in hockey, and Lundqvist proved to be just that in New York before extending for another seven seasons. That season, Lundqvist propelled his team to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 20 years, putting on display just how essential he is to the Rangers.