Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Extension fit for a King

It took the Rangers seven seasons to get back to the playoffs, but on Tuesday they made a move which should keep them a contender for the next six years.

The Rangers and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist reached a preliminary agreement yesterday believed to be worth $6.5 million for 6 seasons according to the NY Daily News.

The Rangers and their 25-year old goaltender failed to reach an agreement on a long-term deal this past off-season and Lundqvist was brought back on a 1-year deal worth $4.25. Since January 1, the earliest date the team could negotiate a new contract with Lundqvist, his agent Don Meehan and Ranger's general manager Glen Sather have been at work on a new deal.

The deal is a big one for the Rangers because if Lundqvist was not under contract by July 1 he would have become a restricted free agent. Under rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, teams would be able to place bids on him. The Rangers would then either have to match those bids or lose him.

Losing Lundqvist would be a big blow to an organization with Cup aspirations. Goalies talented enough to win an Olympic gold medal and finish as a Vezina Trophy finalists in their first two seasons are about as common as goals scored by Colton Orr.

Lundqvist has been hot and cold this season. For the first two months of the season he was nothing short of dominating going 13-9 with four shutouts and a 1.82 goals against average. Lately it has been a different story. Since December his record is a plain 11-12 and he has only two road wins during that time.

It is possible that since this time his mind has been preoccupied by contract negotiations and now that this is behind him he will go back to focusing on hockey. Last season Lundqvist helped carry the Rangers to the playoffs going 11-2 down the stretch and for $39 million bet on the organization expecting similar results.

This move also gives the Rangers a big trading chip. The team was probably reluctant to deal the 23-year old Al Montoya because of the chance of losing King Hank during the off-season. Now that he's locked up for the next six years Montoya becomes more expendable especially since the emergence of another 23-year old goalie Miika Wiikman. Wiikman is playing in his first full season in the AHL and has a better winning percentage and GAA than Montoya.

For more NY sports news go to Hot Stove New York.

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