The King has not left the building.
The New York Rangers and number one goaltender Henrik Lundqvist have agreed to a seven year extension worth a reported $59.5 million on Wednesday. The new contract breaks down to around $8.5 million a year and includes a no-movement clause. The extension now makes Lundqvist the highest paid goaltender in the NHL, surpassing the contracts of Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne - who both earn $7 million per year.
After months of speculation, with this deal, the 31-year old superstar will now be able to play the rest of his career in a Ranger uniform.
"About eight months ago, I sat down for the first time with my family and my agent and kind of discussed my future and there was two things that became really clear to me," said Lundqvist. "And number one was I really want to win the Cup here in New York. It's my biggest goal and my biggest dream."
"And secondly, I want to be a Ranger for life. 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."
Later in the day, the netminder took to Twitter to further express the emotion of the day. "Over 8 years ago, my dream came true. Member of the @NYRangers and playing my 1st @NHL game. I'll never forget it, I was so excited.. Today was so special. To get this opportunity and continue playing for an organisation that means so much 2 me in so many ways feels amazing. Thank you NYR fans & the entire @NYRangers organisation for the support over the years! I'm determined that the best is yet to come."
Lundqvist had struggled so far this season with a 8-11-0 record with a 2.51 goals against and .917 save percentage this season. In fact, after losing to the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Friday, head coach Alain Vigneault sat Lundqvist for the past two games. Backup Cam Talbot stepped in to beat Vancouver 5-2 on Saturday, but on Monday, he lost by the same score to the Winnipeg Jets. The native of Are, Sweden will be back in the crease for the Rangers on Thursday night when they head to Buffalo to face the lowly Sabres.
Regardless of the year he is having so far, already Lundqvist's place in franchise history is unquestioned.
He has only ever played with the Rangers and is currently a seven-time team MVP. In 531 regular season appearances, he has a record 284-182-57 record with 47 shutouts, a 2.26 goals against average, and .920 save percentage. In five of his eight seasons in the NHL, he has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy - which is handed out to the player voted the league's best goaltender for that year. This is amazing, especially since he was a finalist in each of his first three NHL seasons.
In 2011-12, he posted 39-18-5 with 8 shutouts, a .930 save percentage and a more-than-respectable 1.97 goals against en route to his first Vezina Trophy win. In the playoffs that year, he backstopped the Rangers through a tough postseason run that would end in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils.
With 284 victories, he stands 17 victories behind Mike Richter for the franchise's all-time wins lead. Richter had his number 35 retired in Madison Square Garden back on February 4, 2004. At the time, he was the only Ranger to win more than 300 games. Most likely, Lundqvist will crush his outstanding numbers and will also own other records as well.
He already has the team record in combined regular season and playoff shutouts, as well as being the netminder with the most ever shutouts in MSG. Also, he is the only goaltender in NHL history to win at least 30 games in each of his first seven seasons - a streak only stopped by the recent lockout. But, even with the shortened 48-game schedule - for which he played in 43 of those games - he still managed to win 24 of them.
Teammates and team leadership were more than happy to see this result. "There was very little question in my mind that this guy was going to be a great goaltender," says New York Ranger President and General Manager Glen Sather. " He proved that on every level that he's been in - the Olympics, World Championships, and with us. We have one goal left to do and that's to win the Stanley Cup. That's his goal. That's what he wants to do. That's our goal"
Internationally, he made a name for himself. Prior to joining the Rangers, he played in the Elitserien, otherwise known as the Swedish Elite League. Lundqvist put up stellar numbers in five seasons with Frolunda. He was named the league's top goaltender in each of his last three seasons there, while leading his team to two league titles.
In 2006, he led his home country Sweden to a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics hockey tournament. During that tourney, he held opponents scoreless for over 170 minutes - at that time, an Olympic record.
Also, in 2002, he led Sweden to gold in the IIHF In-Line Hockey Championships (he sported a .901 save percentage in the tournament - solid numbers for roller hockey).
"It's up to you now, Henry, to carry us on your shoulders," said Sather. And indeed, for these Rangers to have any hope of competing, they will need Lundqvist to return to the form he has shown in previous seasons.
They will also need an improved and more consistent performance from the rest of the team as well. Compared to the early weeks of the season, the Rangers are better when it comes to their special teams. Their power play is currently 14th in the NHL. Their impressive penalty kill has risen to 4th best.
But, the Rangers are tied for 26th in the league with goals for (2.21). By comparison, the Blueshirts had the 11th best offense in the regular season back in 2011-12, the year they made the East Finals. This year's Ranger squad is now 14th in the league in goals against (2.54). Just two seasons ago, in the year they made that great playoff run, the Rangers ranked third in the league in goals against (2.22).
Needless to say, improvements must not only be made, but they must stick. One of the Rangers' more consistent players, captain Ryan Callahan, will likely be the team's next contract target as he too is in the final year of his current deal. Most likely, the Rangers will make that signing happen. But, between resigning Lundqvist and (eventually) Callahan, there is no doubt that trades are coming for Rangerstown. Other Ranger UFA's include Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore, Dan Girardi, and Anton Stralman. Also, the team will have to decide whether to keep current minor leaguers Michael Haley, Aaron Johnson, and Danny Syvret.
Of course, the one player that has been constantly mentioned in trade rumors is underachieving, soon-to-be restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto. But, the team will also have Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Krieder, Justin Falk, and John Moore as RFA's. As far as minor leaguers go, they will have interesting decisions to make about Danny Kristo, Ryan Bourque, and Brandon Mashinter.
Of course, the numbers will not add up to keep all of these players. Who stays and who goes?
Also, now that Lundqvist can finish his career as a Ranger, what will the Rangers do with Cam Talbot? The rookie backup's last year under contract is next season. He slipped up against Winnipeg on Monday, but truthfully, that loss wasn't really his fault. His debut in this league has been nothing but solid. He has won six of his first eight starts in the NHL while earning two shutouts as Lundqvist's backup. At the beginning of the season, Talbot was poised to once again be the starting goalie for the Hartford Wolf Pack. Then, Lundqvist got his lower body injury and Talbot was thrust into the spotlight. And even briefly, there may have seemed to be a slight goalie controversy going on. But, Wednesday's signing of Lundqvist makes him the undisputed number one goaltender for this team. And really, it couldn't go any other way. Perhaps Talbot could be a number one goaltender someday, but chances are, he's not going to wait for Henrik to retire to get that shot.
Oh, and by the way, we still have two outdoor games and an Olympic break to look forward to this season. The Olympic break could also play a huge role in what happens in the months to come.
A lot of questions still loom for these Rangers, but at least one was answered on Wednesday. The King is here to stay.