At some point in the next 10 months, Henrik Lundqvist will become the highest-paid hockey goaltender on the planet. There’s also an outside chance the AAV for his potential eight-year contract with the New York Rangers will be the highest for any player in the league, regardless of the position.
Lundqvist, at this moment in time, is the best goaltender in the NHL. That is clearly an opinion, but one that is impossible to dispute. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings can be part of the discussion, as long as he’s willing to sit quietly and accept that Lundqvist’s body of work is far more impressive. Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins is allowed to hang out in the waiting room but should be invited into the discussion after this season.
The pressing issue with Lundqvist’s contract – and really, that of all long-term contracts in every sport – is that by the time the contract reaches its final few years, Lundqvist will be nothing near the elite player he is now. Time is a serial killer, methodically destroying our bodies until we are food for worms. There is no stopping it. Sure, Lundqvist will still be sickeningly handsome when he’s 39, impregnating infertile women with only a glance from his piercing blue eyes, but his ability to stop NHL players from scoring goals will be severely diminished.
Lundqvist is 31 years old, and assuming he signs an eight-year contract, will be 39 when the deal expires. History shows goaltenders cease to be effective north of 36, so there could be a lot of dead years on Lundqvist’s contract at $9 million per season, and even with a salary cap that will considerably rise between now and then, that’s a lot of dead weight that will be impossible to completely remove from the roster.
Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek are arguably the two best goaltenders in the history of the NHL. Brodeur’s last truly effective season was 2009-10, when he was 37 years old. Yes, he reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, but he finished 34th out of 45 eligible goaltenders in save percentage that season, behind the likes of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Hasek, however, had more positive results as he aged. He had a pair of terrific seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 with the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings, respectively. Hasek finished second in save percentage in 2005-06, the one caveat being he made just 41 starts in his age 39 season. With the Red Wings the following season, Hasek finished 13th in save percentage as the team’s primary starter and reached the Western Conference Final.
It wasn’t entirely a fountain-of-youth story for Hasek, as retirement and a severe groin injury limited him to 14 games during his age 37 and 38 seasons. It’s also worth mentioning that Hasek didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 25 and didn’t become a starter until he was 28, minimizing the wear and tear on his body. Read the rest of this entry »