Columnist: Rangers should be ‘afraid’ of losing Lundqvist

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With only a year left on his contract, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was conspicuously non-committal yesterday when asked about his future with the club that drafted him all the way back in 2000.

“I’m gonna talk to my agent, and we’ll see,” Lundqvist said. “You know, I had such a great time here in New York. From day one they treated me really well and have given me an opportunity to play a lot of hockey. It’s been a lot of fun. I have one more year on the contract.

“I’m just focused on – well, right now, I’m trying to get over this year – but we’ll see. I’ll talk to my agent and take it from there.”

Like most Rangers fans, the above remarks had New York Post columnist Larry Brooks wondering what Lundqvist meant by them:

Maybe this was Lundqvist simply starting negotiations. But maybe not. Maybe the 31-year-old reigning Vezina winner and 2013 finalist is going to take some time, perhaps all of next season, to evaluate whether committing to the Rangers represents his best chance to win the Stanley Cup.

There is very little doubt that Lundqvist, operating on a six-year contract under which he is earning an average of $6.875 million per, will surpass Alex Ovechkin ($9.538 million per) as the NHL’s highest paid player.

Lundqvist’s asking price is likely to be a minimum of $80 million for eight years, the maximum length allowed for a player re-signing with his own team.

Lundqvist, 31, won the Vezina Trophy last year and is a finalist again in 2013. He’s been the Rangers’ MVP seven straight seasons.

He’s also already made a ton of money in the NHL. Which is to say, yes, he could get an eight-year deal if he re-signs with the Rangers compared to just seven anywhere else, but is one extra year going to be a difference-maker?

Last word to Brooks:

Lundqvist enjoys a certain lifestyle. There may not be many teams in preferred cities with both the need and the means for the goaltender who have a greater chance to win over the next few seasons than the Rangers.

But given the chance to pledge his future to a New York he so clearly loves, the goaltender declined. Maybe it was a gambit. Maybe it was a way of warning management not to take him for granted.

But maybe he is skeptical about the program. If that is the case, the Rangers should be afraid.