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Addressing Henrik Lundqvist’s extension comments

After a frustrating end to the Rangers’ season in Boston several days ago, the voracious New York media was bestowed with the “We’ll see” heard round the world.  Henrik Lundqvist’s non-committal response to his future in New York almost imploded the entire hockey media.  Articles were written, page hits were had, and ad revenue rained down on media outlets.  Many observers and analysts alike feel that the King possibly moving kingdoms was the impetus for John Tortorella’s unceremonious dismissal on Wednesday.  Obviously, I’m not behind the New York Ranger curtain, so I couldn’t tell you with any certainty whether this is true, but I can dig a little deeper into those comments and see if the “threat” is credible in this case.

For those who missed it (and I’m paraphrasing), when asked about his long term future with the team, Hank responded with the functional equivalent of “we’ll see, I need to talk to my agent”.  Normally, this is a very typical response from a player when asked about his contract, but considering Hank’s importance and impact on the franchise, his remarks were bound to cause a stir. 

So, let’s look at this logically.  First and foremost, we need to accept that directly after an elimination loss in the playoffs, against a rival, no less, he is going to be frustrated.  Hank is surely aware that he’s not 25 anymore and those endless years to win a Cup aren’t all in front of him.  He wants to win badly, and sometimes, you can’t always keep those emotions in check.  Hank has been purported to be nothing but happy in NYC.  It has the cultural and celebrity status that he values, and it’s probably (outside of Boston) the shortest flight to and from Sweden.

The statements themselves don’t really give us any information other than his agent isn’t a moron.  Back in 2010 when Derek Jeter became a free agent with the Yankees, the entire world knew that Derek wouldn’t play for any other organization.  Sure, some random speculation about the Rays and Giants popped up, but at the end of the day, he was a Yankee.  And he got a contract worth about half of what he was after.  It makes no sense for Hank to pledge his allegiance to New York when he is trying to get one last mega-deal.  The Rangers would probably pay him either way, but it doesn’t hurt to not tip his hand and surrender valuable leverage.

Now, let’s look at it from a financial standpoint.  The simple explanation is that he can get eight years from the Rangers and only 7 from any competitor for his services, per the new CBA.  But let’s look a little deeper.  Henrik Lundqvist is a brand, not just an athlete.  He is handsome, charismatic and incredibly good at what he does.  Being the King of New York comes with a little more cache than being the King of Phoenix.  He is deeply entwined with the Garden of Dreams charity, and even has his own clothing line based on his royal status at the World’s Most Famous Arena.  The Henrik Lundqvist brand is almost inseparably tied to the NYC market.

For a moment, though, let’s forget all that.  This whole situation really begs the question of “where would he go?”.  If we look at the list of possible teams based on criteria that would give Hank what he was looking for in terms of competitiveness, an environment that would help maximize his brand, along with a vacancy, the list becomes very short.  The hockey markets that would meet the large market component are: Philly, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Vancouver, and maaaybe Colorado (probably not, though).

Now, let’s remove the teams that are worse off than the Rangers in terms of competitiveness.  That means goodbye Philly, Colorado and probably Toronto.  Actually not as long a list as I expected when I set out to write this post, but I digress.  Alright, now who has a high-end goalie locked into a stable role?  Boston has Tuukka Rask, Montreal has Carey Price, LA has Jon Quick for the next 9 seasons, Detroit just re-upped Jimmy Howard for the next 6 years and Vancouver has Cory Schneider.  That essentially leaves Chicago as the sole realistic destination for Hank should he leave NY and still get everything that he wants.

Corey Crawford has emerged this playoff as a fairly capable NHL backstop.  While Hank would be a massive upgrade, Chicago has a team full of stars.  Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, Hossa, etc. is an expensive roster.  With $62.6m already committed to next years squad, fitting in an extra $8-9 million for Hank doesn’t seem to fit.  Besides, can you imagine Hank in the Midwest?

I have no doubt that Hank’s remarks rattled much of the fanbase, and maybe even some members of the front office, but when you look at the situation a little more closely, Hank needs New York as much as New York needs Hank.  They are a perfect marriage.  With the talent in place here, and a fresh voice coming from the coaching staff, this is where Hank has his best chance to win the Cup, and be one of the rare players in this day of professional sports who is immortalized by the only team he has ever played for.  Fear not Ranger fans, Hank is not going anywhere.

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  1. I bet that Hank and his agent are laughing their butt’s off right now.
    I don’t think he is going anywhere but you forgot one team that needs a goalie and has the cap space AND they play in a major metro area…the Islanders.
    Remember they move to Brooklyn next year.
    If Hank signed with them, there would be a civil war in NYC!

  2. justin you loss me when you didn’t mention Brooklyn.Yes the Islanders.Who looked exciting in losing to the Penguins.Imagine if they had the best goaltender in the world.They have a young core led by young superstar John Tavares.Brooklyn is in NYC.

  3. Never believe that a player “needs” anyplace. They (player and agent) are driven by money, not allegiance. He may well stay, but more about the opportunity to make $$ here (in NY) over anywhere else. If Brooklyn does jump in, watch out. They have $, a NY attitude and a need to make a splash.

    1. It’s not about allegiance Sal, its about opportunity. Manhattan provides Hank with financial, marketing and on-ice success opportunities not available elsewhere.

        1. We are going to have to agree to disagree on Brooklyn, I guess, but where on the west coast is he going to find NYC type exposure? With a team with no entrenched tender?

            1. I’m a native New Yorker who is now 25 years in San Diego. Trust me, thought the Ducks sell out, Southern California does not breath hockey whatsoever. Hank would have to learn how to surf.

    2. Sal

      Think about this, even in their hay days, four cups in a row, did you ever see any Islander make any commercials? Not no, but hell no! I assume nothing, but I believe Hank got what he, and the rest of the team wanted, Torts leaving!

      Sather will do whatever he needs to, in order to keep Hank, and try to win a cup for the city. Even in Sweden, can you see Hank make a commercial with an Islander jersey on, my stomach is getting upset at the mere thought. He know where his bread is buttered, and will stay, for the right amount.

      By the way, if any of you have been in Filthadelphia, you’ll understand what I’m about to say, the women there leave a lot to be desired, no town like New York!!!!!

    3. They also have an owner that has had to poor 20+ million into the team the last 4-5 years. I don’t doubt they might want to make a splash but one to the tune of 8 years 60 mil is out of the NYI range. It’s a good point but you don’t s**t where you eat and if Snow ever stole the NYR star goaltender. You can bet Sather would declare RFA war. The Islanders just don’t have the market the Rangers do. Not yet. They might begin to get to a good place in the 5th largest city in the World (Brooklyn).

  4. I don’t view Brooklyn as a logical landing spot. I mean, obviously any player can leave anywhere if he’s not happy. The point of this post was to try and narrow down places he would get the same benefits of playing in Manhattan.

    While things are looking up for the Isles, they are still significantly behind the Rangers in terms of player development and overall team balance. The Isles were a great story this year and have some leadership in place, but the development of their defensive core is almost non-existent (although they have some great prospects).

    Also, they have a hastily thrown together arrangement in Brooklyn in an arena that was never contemplated as a hockey venue. Also an owner with significantly less resources. While Brooklyn is a possibility, if his priority is to win a Cup while he still can, BKYN makes no sense.

  5. I hope he is not going anywhere. They said the same with Messier before he left and went to Vancouver

    1. That’s a pretty serious straw man Sal. Aside from Brooklyn, what are your potential landing spots that can give Hank, 1.) a better chance to win, 2.) comparable financial gain, and 3.) media/charity/branding exposure comparable to Manhattan?

    1. Ha, don’t hate bc I called you out on your AV statements Tx. You know that blaming the coach for an individual failure in a single series, then using it as evidence of said coach’s ineptitude is lazy.

      1. Losing a locker room is the coaches fault. A piss-poor power-play is the coaches fault. Saying players “stink” in the coaches fault. Being irritating to the media and then complaining that they take things wrong, is the coaches fault. Winning and losing as a team is the goal. The creating of the “team environment” falls on the coaching staff.
        I would welcome Doug Weight

        1. That’s not what I’m talking about, Sal. Obviously no one here has a crystal ball. We use the best info available to create logical theories. Using the unexpected firing of a coach as evidence that a player is going to depart leaves a massive hole in the center of your logic.

      2. Ha, I’m just butt-hurt I never got an explanation about it. And honestly, Luongo’s terrible track record is on AV. I mean, he did get fired.

        1. My apologies Tx, I should have given you a more in-depth explanation. I don’t see how Luongo being incapable of stepping up in big games is on AV? Coaching only goes so far if a player has a difficult time performing under pressure.

          Many talented coaches have been fired from one organization only to find success in another. Look at Daryl Sutter and Ken Hitchcock for example. I remember Bruins’ fans calling for Julien’s head at the end of the 2011 regular season.

          Timing and fit are everything for coaches, just because AV had alot of regular season success and came up one game short in the Finals doesn’t make him incapable of winning in the post season, nor is it a true reflection of his talent level. At the end of the day, players are on the ice. I’ll take consistent success from a team any day.

          1. You are right, but I’m just not sold on him. If they hire him, I think it would be a good hire, but he’d have a lot to prove. I’d love to see what he can do with Nash, Hags, Brassard, and hopefully Zuc, though.

            1. I can understand your trepidation Tx, this hire has massive implications for the short term future of the franchise.

  6. Justin,

    Excellent post!! I for one was not worried Hank would leave, but somewhere deep inside, the worry was still there. I believe this concise, well thought out, post alleviated that feeling. What better place in the world for the King to play. Nothing compares to NYR! Nothing, let’s be frank! Henrik will be in the rafters one day, hopefully with a couple of cups to boot.

  7. Okay, kids. I’ve got one for you: I’m wondering if Hank’s “We’ll see” heard ’round the world is more of a shot across the bow regarding the selection of the NEXT coach instead of the popular opinion that he was expressing a need to dump Torts. (Although I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled with the guy. That act gets old.)Hear me out: There were several news reports that many of the players knew on break up day that Torts was going to get fired. And, there were many rumors during the Boston series that Torts might get the ax if they lost to Boston (check news feeds/blog posts on May 23). I, too, had heard from a source I trust before the regular season ended that the Dolans had had it with Torts and wanted him gone after the season ended, no matter the outcome. So, if any of this is true, I think it just might be possible that Hank’s comments reflect concern about the future coach instead of the former one. And, if any of the Messier talk is true, if I were Hank, I’d send a signal that I’d like to see an experienced man at the helm, not a fan/Sather favorite who hasn’t really coached at any level in his life. Just throwin’ that out there.

    1. Great point on Mess. I posted on a few occasions that his success on the ice doesn’t mean he will do the same behind the bench. In all sports, it seems that the super stars don’t do well coaching, what may have come to them easily!

      1. Thank you. That’s an interesting theory above. I’m sure Hank will have at least peripheral input on the next coach, I’d be curious to know what he’s looking for in a personality.

  8. There is so much logic in this post that I want to give it a hug. Thank you thank you thank you.

  9. THe best players should be consulted when making coaching changes. I would not be surprised if Hank and Callie have to weigh in on the next hire. Maybe not Nash. I do think that the “Torts way” may have influenced the effort that Richards put out this year as well.

  10. While his words wasn’t the reason for torts being fired. It was definitely the straw that broke the camels back.

    His comments are for maximum salary. Go get it Hank. Of all the people on the team making that much money. You deserve it.

  11. Scary thought, maybe no merit, Malkin becomes UFA next season, say Pens don’t win this year, don’t sign Malkin, still have tons of talent there, not to mention arguably one of the best players in the league current. Add in a top 3 goaltender that can actually play in the playoffs (cough fleury). Scary thought

    1. Understandable fear, but I don’t think Hank is a “steel town” kind of guy. I don’t think Pittsburgh gives Hank the lifestyle environment he is looking for, but who knows, if the opportunity to join a team that good arises, all bets could be off.

    2. No way he signs with P-burg, he would die of boredom! Nothing much happens there on a good day.

      1. I could see him signing a short deal with Pit, just as easily as I can see him re-upping with us for 8.

        In my mind, the most important thing to him is a cup and I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this plays out:

        -Next year passes, we exit the playoffs, Lundy still has no extension.
        -He will be 32 next off season and could sign a 2 year deal with whoever he wants (Pit may be a good fit) to go for the Cup.
        -A 2 yr deal would still expire before Lundy reached 35 (he would be 34 that off season) which still leaves him enough time to sign a 5-6 year deal to close out his career. (More teams would be inclined to sign him before he hits 35 because they wouldn’t be penalized should Lundy decide to retire before that contract were to expire.

        Do I think that will happen? No. Could it happen? Of course. I think the best fit is NY, I think he will stay here. I think he wants to be here. But we also all KNOW that he wants a cup. Where does he think his best chance is? Is NY on the up and up? This offseason will be a very telling one for the direction of this franchise and the future of our stud netminder.

        My guess is that with Torts out, Lundy stays, but the writing is on the wall for Richards. Lundy gets whatever contract he wants (8 yrs) and Glen has no problem making it happen with cap savings from the buyout.

        1. Good points, but Fluery is signed for a few more years right? Will the Pens buy him out, no way, they have a tight fist, always crying poverty. Hell they even got the state of Pennsylvania to pay a major portion of their new arena. Anything can happen, but that franchise, I don’t see it. Like I said before, he would die of boredom there the first month or so!!

          1. Agree. I don’t see Pit moving on Fleury despite his recent post season struggles. A trade tho….maybe

        2. I don’t see a world where Hank signs a short (2 yr.) deal. What if he gets hurt? He will definitely sign a long term deal. My guess is it will be an eight yr. deal. Only one team can give him that. He aint leaving NY.

  12. Justin,

    How do you feel about all the reports that Hank wants to be the highest paid player in hockey, surpassing OV, and going for his 8 yr 80 mil deal? I don’t put a whole lot of stock in it, mainly because he would be shooting himself in the foot somewhat by financially limiting whoever sings him in constructing a cup caliber team in our salary cap era. Sticking with a “humble” 6.85 mil over 8 years could go a long way towards getting him to the promised land. Curious on your take.

    P.S. After next year (throughout this CBA) I see the cap as increasing each year as it did under the last CBA. I believe 6 outdoor games next year and numerous other promos in following years will grow the pot so that 50% of said number will exceed our current 70 mil cap. If so, maybe 8 years 80 mil wouldn’t limit Glen to construct a a contender around Lundy’s speculated deal. What say you?

    1. It’s hard to speculate about guy’s personal feelings surrounding their worth. Could be leaks by the agent to make the final number seem more palatable or Hank could really feel he is a max player. Tough to say. The team is constructed around a high salary allocation for the goaltender, so I don’t think even a significant raise would impact the cap that much.

      I agree with you completely about the figure going up. During the negotiations for the CBA, I thought 64.3 was a low number, but I think going forward it won’t be nearly as much of an issue as revenue continues to rise.

  13. Of course Henrik gave a “we’ll see,” with negotiations coming up. If he says, “Well, I just love it here and will do everything I can stay. God willing, they’ll hand over a massive contract. If not, I’ll take what I can get” then he loses all leverage. In negotiating, the other side has to believe you’ll walk away from the table, even if you don’t intend on it.

    Talk about an over-reaction.

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