Haggerty: Rask deal looks like a bargain

Haggerty: Rask deal looks like a bargain
December 4, 2013, 5:00 pm
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WILMINGTON -- Well, it certainly didn’t take long for Tuukka Rask’s eight year, $56 million contract extension to become a bargain, did it?

The 26-year-old Finnish netminder is putting together a Vezina Trophy worthy season after taking his B’s hockey club to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, and he is earning every bit of the hefty paycheck he was given to remain in Boston. Rask’s new deal made him the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL in terms of AAV (Average Annual Value) along with Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, as both goalies were making $7 million per season in their mammoth deals.

After a bit of public hemming and hawing over the size and term of the contract for a goaltender that’s never played more than 45 games in any regular season, Rask’s mantle as the NHL’s highest paid goalie will last exactly one season. It will last only until the coronation of King Henrik at Madison Square Garden in the next day or two, when Lundqvist will probably get a throne and scepter thrown in with the nearly $60 million he squeezed out of James Dolan.

The New York Rangers have inked impending unrestricted free agent Henrik Lundqvist to a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension that will take the Blueshirts through the 2020-21 season.

Given New York’s defensive style and Lundqvist’s impressive regular-season body of work for the Rangers, the deal makes all the sense in the world for New York general manager Glen Sather. Lundqvist was probably worth more to the Rangers than any other team around the NHL as long-term contracts for goalies are looked at as a very dicey investment after watching guys like Rick DiPietro crash and burn.

But the Lundqvist deal also has a side benefit for the Bruins: It makes Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli look awfully prudent for locking down Rask before the contract comparables went through the roof, and the salary cap ceiling started making its inevitable ascension to $80 and beyond.  

Lundqvist will be 32 years old when the new deal kicks in, and will turn 40 years old in the final season of the seven-year pact with the Rangers. He’s having a down season with an 8-11-0 record along with a 2.51 goals against average and .917 save percentage, and King Henrik has never been able to carry his Rangers team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance during his nine seasons on Broadway.

One could make the argument Lundqvist’s 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winning season might be the best he’ll ever be as an NHL puck-stopper, though some goalies do continue to improve into their mid-30’s as Tim Thomas proved in Boston.

By comparison, Rask inked his long contract extension as a 26-year-old goaltender just coming into his own with the Black and Gold. He’s already got a Stanley Cup Final appearance on his resume, and he put together a 2013 postseason body of work (14-8 record, 1.88 goals against and .941 percentage) that’s superior to anything King Henrik had ever produced in the playoffs.

Rask will only be three years older than Lundqvist is now when his eight year, big-money contract runs out with the Bruins. Chiarelli has done the ideal thing in pro sports when it comes to big contracts for pro athletes, and that’s to always pay for future performance rather than past accomplishment.

The cap will keep rising at a meteoric rate based on the growing NHL revenue totals, and eventually another goaltender will come along and dwarf even the $8.5 million per season that Lundqvist will earn each of the next seven seasons with the Rangers.

With each one of those whopping contracts brought on by the escalating salary cap ceiling, the Rask deal will just keep looking better and better for the Black and Gold.