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Top Shelf: Lundqvist extension a no-brainer for Rangers

By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Apologies to everyone who thought their team had a chance to sign Henrik Lundqvist away from the New York Rangers this summer.

In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone who's been watching Lundqvist man the crease for the Blueshirts over the past several seasons, the Rangers locked up their star goaltender months before he could ever hit the open market.

Lundqvist ended speculation about his desire to stay in New York on Wednesday, agreeing to a seven-year deal worth a reported $59.5 million.

It's a contract that should make the 31-year-old Swede a Ranger for life, a scary proposition for the rest of the Metropolitan Division.

Lundqvist, a five-time Vezina Trophy finalist and one-time winner, boasts a lifetime record of 137-72-20 and a 2.32 goals against average against his current divisional foes. All told, he is 284-182-57 with a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage during his career and has been the starter in 524 of his 531 games at the NHL level.

No offense to current Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot, but it's pretty clear Lundqvist is the past, present and future when it comes to New York's goaltending situation. Wednesday's contract news only strengthened the reign of "King Henrik."

Despite being a seventh-round pick by New York in 2000, Lundqvist has become the face of the franchise by being the model of consistency during his eight- plus seasons in the Big Apple. Not counting the lockout-shortened campaign of 2012-13, he's started in 50 or more games every season and recorded at least 30 wins in each of those years.

"Since his arrival in New York in 2005, Henrik has consistently been one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said in a statement announcing the long-term extension. "He is a proud representative of the tradition and class of this organization and we are excited to have him remain as a cornerstone of the franchise."

While there is little doubt Lundqvist earned his hefty payday by being a rock for the Rangers for close to a decade, there still is something noticeably absent from his career resume. That, of course, is the all-important (and often times elusive) Stanley Cup title.

In essence, all Lundqvist needs to do to justify his lucrative extension is win one title over the lifetime of the new contract. Of course, winning a Cup this upcoming spring in the final days of his current deal would satisfy that obligation just as well.

If Hank can lead the Rangers to a championship or two over the next several seasons, then nobody in New York will care when the team is paying a 39-year- old goaltender $8.5 million a year. If Lundqvist is still without a title when the 2020-21 season rolls around, then giving him the largest payday ever for an NHL goaltender will probably seem like a mistake in retrospect. Either way, with bona fide star goalies hard to come by, it's a gamble the Rangers were wise to make.

The problem is Lundqvist needs help to get New York to the top of the hockey mountain, and he hasn't always received it in the postseason. Lundqvist has turned in an excellent 2.28 GAA and .920 save percentage over 67 career playoff games, but has only a 30-37 record to show for it.

He's also recorded five of his eight career postseason shutouts over the last two playoffs, but New York only managed to make it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2012 before bowing out in the second round last spring.

Lundqvist almost single-handedly willed the Rangers to an opening-round win over Washington last season, posting consecutive shutouts in Games 6 and 7 to shut the door against the Capitals. However, New York only managed to score 10 times in the next round against Boston, losing the conference semifinal series in five games.

There is little doubt Lundqvist has the ability to hold up his end of the bargain during a championship run. He showed that back at the 2006 Winter Olympics, when he anchored Team Sweden to a Gold Medal in Turin, Italy. If New York's relatively young core can manage to grow up around Lundqvist, perhaps similar results could be achieved in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

When it comes to thinking about the future contracts of other Rangers there is some concern about the annual $8.5 million cap hit that comes with Lundqvist's extension, but the deal shouldn't prevent New York from successfully building around its franchise goaltender. The pay increase amounts to roughly $1.625 million more a year in the salary cap department than Lundqvist's current deal, a modest raise to cover for a team that was already paying a premium for its goaltending.

After all, the salary cap ceiling is projected to raise along with NHL revenues, leaving big-market franchise like the Rangers to spend as freely as they normally do.

Sather and the Rangers front office did the only thing that made sense when they backed up the money truck and dumped it on Lundqvist's doorstep. Then again, if the other option is to let one of the best goaltenders of his generation walk away from the only NHL team he's ever known, there really isn't much to think about.

12/04 13:35:59 ET

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Schedule

Friday, April 18Full Scoreboard
Montreal «4Final | Box
Tampa Bay1Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Montreal leads series, 2-0.
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Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
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Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 0
DUR 3
 
Final
CHC 1
CIN 4
9th
PIT 3
MIL 5
 
Final
WAS 3
STL 1
 
9th
CLE 2
TOR 3
 
7th
DET 3
ANA 11
 
9th
NYM 0
ATL 5
 
8th
BOS 4
BAL 7
 
7th
TAM 3
NYY 5
 
9th
MIA 4
SEA 4
 
6th
TEX 10
CWS 0
 
6th
KAN 3
MIN 0
 
4th
COL 7
PHI 0
 
10:05pm Tonight
OAK
HOU
10:10pm Tonight
LOS
ARI
10:10pm Tonight
SDP
SFG
Final
TAM 1
MON 4
3rd
BOS 0
DET 1
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
DAL
Final
NOR 0
DUR 3