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11 July 2007

Report: Lundqvist Deal Could Come Today

John Dellapina of the New York Daily News reports that with the Rangers finalizing the deal to keep Brendan Shanahan in New York for one more season, the Blueshirts immediate focus is on inking Franchise Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year deal to avoid salary arbitration. Dellapina reports that, much like Shanny, King Henrik is being flexible in negotiations with the Rangers to help the team navigate the salary cap. Thanks to that flexibility, the report states:

an announcement could come as early as this morning that Lundqvist has agreed to a one-year contract worth approximately $2.5 million. The deal is essentially a bridge to next season and beyond that will enable Lundqvist and the club to avoid their scheduled July 24 salary arbitration case while keeping the Rangers from having to unload players to get under this season's $50.3 million salary cap.

The 25-year-old goaltender will get his big-money, long-term deal soon enough. After Jan. 1, 2008, the Rangers can sign Lundqvist to a lucrative and lengthy extension for 2008-09 and beyond without affecting their '07-08 salary-cap situation. And they almost certainly will do so.

Allowing Lundqvist to hit the market next summer as a restricted free agent would be dangerous, as rival clubs might line up to make him whopping offers that would present the Rangers with this no-win option: match the offer sheet and crush themselves against the salary cap or let their franchise goaltender go for draft-pick compensation unlikely to ever produce a comparable player.

Signing Lundqvist to another short-term deal after this one also would be pointless as he could become an unrestricted free agent following the 2008-09 season.

It appears as though Sather is buying some time here to clear salary and also avoid the wounds that can be opened during salary arbitration. This is a smart move, and I hope they get this taken care of as soon as Dellapina suggests. While I liked the Gomez and Drury moves for a variety of reasons, the moves can't really be judged until we see what the true cost will be in terms of salary cap sacrifices. If players like Cullen and Mara are moved and replaced by kids like Staal and Dubinsky, then these big free agent singnings were well worth it. However, if these moves ever cost them the cap maneuverability to keep King Henrik on Broadway long term, then these moves would be a disaster. I don't see that happening. Both sides want to make this work, and I think they will be able to get a one-year deal done in short order and then a long-term deal done sometime next year.

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