Henrik Lundqvist is the New York Rangers‘ most important player of the last decade, and he once again showed why last night. In a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars, his team was utterly outplayed. The defense was atrocious, as his team was out-shot 22-6 in the first period. Their physicality was non-existent, and they were lucky to capitalize on their few scoring chances. Yet, there was King Henrik living up to his nickname, bailing out the Rangers with a spectacular 41-save performance. How many times since his rookie season in 2005 have we seen this? Lundqvist becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season, and to let him get away would be disastrous. General manager Glen Sather should not wait around much longer to give his franchise goaltender the contract extension he has earned and deserved.
Should the Rangers allow him to hit free agency, any team in need of goaltending would not hesitate to pay him what he wants. Sather and Rangers owner Jim Dolan would be wise to give Lundqvist a max deal long before the season ends. He has been a Vezina Trophy finalist five times, winning in 2012. He was named Rangers’ team MVP every season since 2007. No, he has never won a Stanley Cup, but this is mostly a function of rarely having a Cup-caliber team surrounding him. It is impossible to count how many times Lundqvist has stolen games for the Rangers that they didn’t deserve to win. Also, if there was any doubt about his ability to single-handedly win big games, he posted back-to-back shutouts in Game 6 and Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Lundqvist is 31 years old, but he still has at least four or five more great years left in him. The Rangers may not win a Cup this year, but they won’t dream of coming close in the next decade if they don’t lock up Lundqvist long-term. As performances such as last night’s prove, Sather and Dolan owe it not only to the fans, but to the face of their franchise to get a deal done very soon.