When the Rangers signed Henrik Lundqvist to a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension on Wednesday, making him the highest-paid goaltender in the world, the bar was raised.
“He’s proven himself to be a world-class goaltender, and I expect him to continue to play at the highest level as well into the future,” Rangers owner James Dolan said, looking over at Lundqvist.
“Right,” Lundqvist answered.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather didn’t hold back either.
“Just carry us on your shoulders,” he said with a laugh.
Funny, yes. But if money could talk, that’s probably what it would say.
“The reason he got the money he did is because he’s the identity of that team,” said Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer, who will face King Henrik and the Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden [7 p.m., CSN].
“He’s the face of that team. You look at our face of the team. Ovi’s got that kind of money, even more.”
When Lundqvist’s extension kicks in next season he’ll become the highest-paid goalie in the NHL at $8.5 million per year, roughly $1 million less than Ovechkin will make as the game’s highest-paid player.
Lundqvist, who will be 39 at the expiration of the contract, earned his big payday as much for what the Rangers expect from him as for what he’s already done in his career. In parts of nine seasons with the Rangers Lundqvist is 284-182-58 with 47 shutouts.
But he has never won a Stanley Cup and that, clearly, is what the Rangers expect from the 31-year-old Swede, who has a career record of 15-7-3 against the Capitals with four shutouts. Lundqvist has also knocked the Capitals out of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
Capitals goaltending coach Olie Kolzig said last week that Lundqvist is one of the few NHL goalies quick enough and athletic enough to stay deep inside his crease and still make saves that his counterparts cannot.
“He’s always square. He’s never out of position or scrambling. He’s always in a position to make a save and a lot of times that’s rare because goalies get a little anxious and challenge too much. You never see very many highlights of him where he’s scrambling on the wrong side of the net. He’s always just … there.
“There aren’t many goalies that have the ability and reaction time to play that style. He’s a big enough guy that it doesn’t give you a lot more room. He’s also unorthodox. He goes with his right pad down and keeps his left pad straight up. He takes away that glove side pretty quickly.”