From The Journal News and LoHud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH — Funny, but just a few days earlier people were wondering what, exactly, the Rangers felt about their franchise player, Henrik Lundqvist, when his backup, Cam Talbot, played two games in a row.
Turns out the Rangers feel just the way they always have — that he is their best player and a Ranger for life.
That became official Wednesday when Lundqvist, 31, signed a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension that kicks in with an $8 million signing bonus and takes him through 2020-21.
Lundqvist said when he first sat down with his family and his agent, Don Meehan, that “there’s two things that became very clear to me: No. 1 was I really want to win a Cup here in New York. It’s my biggest goal, my biggest dream. It really pushes me right now to work harder. Secondly, I want to be a Ranger for life.
“To picture myself anywhere else, it’s just wrong. … from the heart, it was never an option to leave this club.
“It was simple for me to see what needed to happen and what I wanted to happen.”
Lundqvist didn’t necessarily take a discount, but he probably could have squeezed the maximum number of years (eight) and possibly more money . Rangers president/GM Glen Sather said Lundqvist could have gotten more with another team.
His contract includes a full no-move clause, which means he can’t be traded or assigned to the minors. The salary cap is almost certainly going up, and Lundqvist’s cap hit beginning next season will be $8.5 million per, highest in the league for a goalie, and highest on the team.
“He’s proven (he’s a great goaltender) at every level … the Olympics, World Championships, and with us we have one goal left to do, and that’s to win the Stanley Cup,” Sather said. “That’s his goal, that’s what he wants to do, and that’s our goal.
“He’s a great guy, he’s great in the community, he’s great in the magazines, he’s great in the commercials,” he jokingly said.
Sather then turned to Lundqvist and said, “It’s up to you, Henry. Now just carry us on your shoulders.”
Garden executive chairman James Dolan, whose Garden of Dreams charity is fronted by Lundqvist, said, “He is everything you would want on and off the ice. He’s a leader, a tireless worker. His focus on his game is unparalleled. As a team owner he is a model of what you want in a player.”
That player has had a difficult season so far — 8-11, 2.51 goals-against average, .917 save percentage. But he said his performance had nothing to do with the contract negotiations.
“During the summer I probably thought about it every day,” he said. “Going into training camp it was definitely there. I wanted to get it done. But then, when it didn’t happen, a couple of days it was on my mind but then I let it go, so it hasn’t been a factor for me the last month or so.
“I put it behind me and worked on my game . You always want to find reasons why you’re not on top of your game. I’m not going to bring this into that. I managed to put it on the side.”
Sather now has to deal with a bunch of his free agents-to-be, including Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.
Callahan, the team captain, knew one thing as the team headed to Buffalo Wednesday.
“(Lundqvist’s) paying for dinner, that’s for sure,” he said.
Photo by Getty Images.