Rangers ink Lundqvist to $59.5M extension
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The New York Rangers signed Henrik Lundqvist to a seven-year contract extension worth $59.5 million Wednesday, essentially guaranteeing that the franchise goaltender will finish his career as a Blueshirt.
The deal, which comes in at an average of $8.5 million annually, also includes a full no-move clause, a source informed ESPNNewYork.com. Once the extension kicks in next season, Lundqvist will become the league’s highest-paid goaltender ahead of Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, who have cap hits of $7 million next season. Lundqvist’s cap hit of $8.5 million is tops among goaltenders and the fifth highest overall in the league.
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The extension puts to bed a bizarre week in which Lundqvist, 31, was besieged with questions about his future after backup Cam Talbot was awarded two consecutive starts. The Rangers gave the 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner the type of financial commitment that leaves little doubt about his place in the club’s hierarchy.
Lundqvist, who has an 8-11-0 record with a 2.51 goals against average and .917 save percentage this season, will start Thursday night against Buffalo.
The team’s seven-time MVP has been nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist five of the last eight seasons and has a 284-182-57 record, 2.26 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 531 career appearances for the Rangers. He was drafted by the Rangers in the seventh round in 2000 and made his NHL debut in 2005.
“I want to be a Ranger for life,” Lundqvist said in a post-practice news conference Wednesday. “That was a big thing that became clear to me, because how they treated me. Everything from coaches to players to everyone working around the organization, the city, fans — it’s been incredible. To picture myself anywhere else, it was just wrong. Never, never an option.”
Even team owner James Dolan was on hand to commemorate the new deal and give his stamp of approval.
“I just wanted to say how proud and pleased I am that Henrik is going to finish his career here with the New York Rangers,” Dolan said.
I want to be a Ranger for life. … To picture myself anywhere else, it was just wrong. Never, never an option.
– Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers goaltender
Negotiations had been ongoing since the summer, but they picked up in the past week with Lundqvist’s agents in town to talk shop. Though there was initial speculation that the length of the deal was an issue — Lundqvist’s camp originally sought a max eight-year contract — both term and dollar amount were in play as the two sides hammered out an agreement.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather characterized the negotiations as friendly — “no name-calling” — and said he saw this as a pivotal first piece of the team’s future moving forward.
“We have other people in the club that we’re talking to and this is just part of the process, but in my mind, Henrik was the one that had to be signed first,” Sather said. “That’s the way we tried to deal with it.”
Lundqvist, whose play has dipped this season, maintained that he was able to put the contract talks behind him once the preseason was over, but he sounded relieved to have the situation finally resolved.
Once the season began — the last of his six-year, $41.25 million deal — he did his best to shut down questions about his contract.
“Going into training camp, it was definitely there. I wanted to get it done,” Lundqvist said. “After it didn’t get done, I think for a couple days, yeah, it was on my mind, but then I let it go. It hasn’t been a factor for me the past month or so.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault believes the news will bring some peace of mind for Lundqvist.
“You can tell today, I think this was a relief for Hank to finally know for sure that he’s going to be a New York Ranger for the rest of his career,” Vigneault said. “I think this is going to be very positive for our whole team.”