GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Just two days after surprisingly watching from the bench for a second straight game, No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist agreed to a long-term contract extension with the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
Lundqvist, in the final season of a six-year, $41.25 million deal, agreed to a seven-year contract worth $59.5 million. His salary-cap charge will rise from $6.875 million to $8.5 million and make him the NHL’s highest-paid goalie.
Lundqvist will earn $11 million next season, $10 million in 2015-16, $9.5 million the following season, $9 million in 2017-18, $7.5 million in 2018-19, $7 million in 2019-20, and $5.5 in the final year.
The deal should keep him starring on Broadway for the rest of his career.
“About eight months ago I sat down for the first time with my family and my agent and kind of discussed my future,” Lundqvist said Wednesday after practice.
“There were two things that became really clear to me: No. 1 was I really wanted to win the (Stanley) Cup here in New York. It’s my biggest goal and my biggest dream and what really pushes me right now to work harder. Secondly, I want to be a Ranger for life.
“To picture myself anywhere else, it was just wrong and it was never an option.”
New York general manager Glen Sather and team owner James Dolan agreed. That helped negotiations go smoothly until they were completed Tuesday.
“There were lots of pieces,” Sather said. “This was a very friendly, peaceful, low-key, unemotional decision to be made by everyone. It was fun. I enjoyed it.”
With the salary cap projected to rise, one hurdle was cleared.
“A lot of that is speculation, so far. You still have to be careful,” Sather said. “It is terrific that Henrik decided to stay here. If he had gone someplace else, I am sure he would’ve earned more money, but it always isn’t money that’s a factor. You have to have a competitive team.
“This organization is all about team, and Henrik is all about team. There was no ‘I’m going to leave if you don’t give me what I want.'”
Now Sather can turn his focus to a slew of other potential free agents, such as captain Ryan Callahan. Sather said behind-the-scenes talks are already underway.
“Henrik was the one that had to be signed first, and that’s the way we tried to do it,” he said.
Callahan said he hasn’t tied his contract situation with Lundqvist’s, but he made it clear that he also wants to stay.
“This is where I want to be,” he said. “I am not going to air it out in the media about my contract and what is going on. I will just go about my business on the ice, and that stuff takes care of itself.”
It has been an unusual few days for the 31-year-old Lundqvist. The Swedish native is off to a slow start this season, especially by his standards, going 8-11 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 20 games.
With the sudden emergence of backup Cam Talbot, the slightest hint of a goalie controversy arose when Talbot was given the start by coach Alain Vigneault on Monday at home against Winnipeg two days after he started against Vancouver, led by former Rangers coach John Tortorella.
“It’s been a different week,” Lundqvist said, “but you learn from all these different experiences. This was an opportunity for me to go really hard in practice and focus on my game. Now we managed to get this done, and I hope from here I can just raise my game and play at the level I need to play to help this team win.”
Talbot had won six straight starts before Monday, including a pair of shutouts, and hadn’t allowed more than two goals in any outing. Those runs ended in New York’s 5-2 loss to the Jets. Talbot still sports a stellar 1.79 GAA in nine appearances.
“It wasn’t weird at all,” Callahan said. “We just continued to go about our business and prepared for our next game.”
Not that there was any doubt on the identity of the Rangers’ No. 1 netminder. Now there is no question who it is and who it will be for years. That future begins Thursday at Buffalo when Vigneault will start Lundqvist against the Sabres.
“What do they say? Happy wife, happy life. Happy goalie, happy team,” Vigneault said with a laugh. “As you can tell, I think this was a relief for Hank to finally know for sure that he is going to be a New York Ranger for the rest of his career.
“I think this is very positive for our whole team.”
Lundqvist’s deal will take him through the 2020-21 season and keep him away from free agency until he is nearly 40.
“He is everything that you would want on and off the ice,” Dolan said. “As a team owner, he is the model of what you want in a player and a leader.”
Lundqvist has been a Vezina Trophy finalist as the NHL’s top goalie in five of his eight seasons, winning it in 2012. He is 284-182-57 in the NHL, all with the Rangers, with a 2.26 GAA, .920 save percentage and 47 shutouts.
“Henrik has been at the top or near the top of the league in goaltending excellence,” former Rangers coach Tom Renney told The Associated Press in an email. “Through the typical and non-typical dynamics of the league, players in and out, coaching changes, living and playing in Manhattan, he has been as reliable as they come.
“He is driven and passionate about winning, and takes his responsibility as the starting goalie for the Rangers very seriously. Good contract for a great goalie.”
Lundqvist, a seventh-round draft pick by the Rangers in 2000, made his NHL debut in 2005 when Renney coached New York.
“He is paying for dinner, that’s for sure,” Callahan said of Lundqvist. “I am happy for him. He is the backbone of this team, and we’ve seen for all the years I’ve been here how good he is.”