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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Henrik Lundqvist Truly is the Most Valuable Ranger


Lundqvist’s Value

After Henrik Lundqvist said Monday, “I’m going to talk to my agent — we’ll see,” in response to a question about his interest in signing a contract extension this summer, it was later interpreted as a swipe at the soon-to-be-departing John Tortorella, even though the coach was not mentioned in the question.

More likely, and more worrisome for the Rangers, Lundqvist was signaling that he intends to negotiate hard during the last year of his contract. What he said was a far cry from what Pavel Datsyuk, facing the same situation in Detroit, said Friday: “I look forward to playing here for many years to come.”

The Rangers should probably be prepared to give Lundqvist what he wants, because he is a franchise player — perhaps even more important to his club than Alex Ovechkin in Washington or Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.

Lundqvist’s average salary, $6.875 million, is the 23rd highest in the N.H.L. But he has a strong argument to demand something in the neighborhood of Ovechkin’s league-high $9.538 million average, or the $8.7 million average, the next highest salaries, of Crosby and Malkin.

Consider where the Rangers would have been if, in each of Lundqvist’s eight seasons with the club, his save percentage were replaced by the N.H.L.’s average.

This season, replacing Lundqvist’s .926 percentage with a goalie at the N.H.L. average of .912, the Rangers would have given up 17 more goals. Assuming, conservatively, that two goals equal a point in the standings, Lundqvist’s absence would have cost the Rangers about eight points. And since they made the playoffs with only five points to spare, it is fair to assume they would have missed the playoffs altogether.

The Rangers made the playoffs in seven of Lundqvist’s eight seasons. But if Lundqvist were switched for an average goalie for that time, the Rangers would have allowed 162 more goals — and probably made the playoffs only twice.

Those are compelling numbers for Lundqvist and his agent, Don Meehan, to wield.

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