NEW YORK - Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers agreed Thursday on a US$41.25-million, six-year contract extension that will keep the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist in the fold through the 2013-14 season.
Lundqvist, playing on a one-year deal worth $4.25 million, has struggled lately after a strong start to his third NHL season. The terms were hammered out this week as the Rangers enjoyed a rare five-day break between games.
The 25-year-old Swede is 24-21-5 this season with a 2.37 goals-against average in 50 games. He backstopped his country's Olympic gold medal run during the 2006 Turin Games.
"It feels good," New York's franchise goalie said Thursday after practice. "I said since Day One that I really like New York, I like to play for the Rangers and am so excited to be done with this deal."
His agreement to a one-year contract before the season gave the Rangers flexibility with the salary cap and allowed them to sign top centres Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to lucrative free-agent deals.
Lundqvist will earn $7.75 million next season, topping Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who was set to be the NHL's highest-paid goalie at $7 million. Lundqvist will be paid $7.75 million in the 2010-11 season, and $6.875 in the second, fourth and fifth seasons of the deal. His salary will be $5.125 million during the 2013-14 season.
Lundqvist could have become a restricted free agent on July 1, but never showed interest in that prospect.
"We talked about this during the summer, that we would sign for one year and then start talking at the start of '08," he said. "Nobody really wanted to wait until the summer. We wanted to get it done."
Lundqvist didn't play in either of New York's games last weekend in Philadelphia and Washington, instead dressing as the backup to Steve Valiquette. With the Rangers' playoff position tentative at best, Lundqvist is expected to carry a heavy workload over the final 23 games this season.
New York entered Thursday on the outside of the playoff race, tied in points for ninth place with Boston, one point behind Buffalo and the post-season cutoff in the Eastern Conference.
Lundqvist showed the sharpness he displayed in helping the Rangers reach the second round of the playoffs last season through the first two months of this campaign. He was 15-9-2 with a 1.83 GAA until Dec. 1, but his average jumped to 3.35 since as New York struggled to a 13-15-5 mark the past 33 games.
He has played recently while concerned about his father, who is recovering back in Sweden from a brain aneurysm.
"There is a lot maybe going on," Lundqvist said. "When you're here or when you play a game, you don't really focus on what goes on around you, whether it's a contract or your dad is sick or whatever it is.
"When I'm here I focus on the right stuff, and I don't think it affected me. I just want to work really hard here and bring my 'A' game."
In his NHL career, spent entirely with New York, Lundqvist is 91-55-22 in 173 games with a 2.32 GAA. He has 14 shutouts, including seven this season - second to Columbus' Pascal Leclaire.
He earned at least 30 wins in each of his first two seasons, joining only Hall of Famer Ed Giacomin as Rangers goalies to accomplish the feat in any consecutive years.
"All I'm seeing is the metamorphosis of a top-notch goaltender in this league," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "He's still evolving."