Eddie Lack was genuinely happy that the new contract he signed with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday contained a two-way clause and lower AHL salary for the upcoming season before becoming a one-way NHL deal for 2013-14.
Forget the possibility of negotiating himself big-league money now as a restricted free agent, the 24-year-old just wanted a place to play in the fall. With the immediate future of the NHL season in doubt, his new two-year deal does just that.
“It works out pretty good for me that it’s a two-way the first year so I know where I am going to play if there is a lockout,” Lack told InGoal during a length Skype session from Sweden. “There’s not a lot of question marks, that’s what I like.”
The deal gives the Canucks flexibility the first season, whether it’s to keep both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, or trade the latter and add a more experienced veteran in his place while the former goes through his first full season as a No.1 in the NHL. And the one-way salary in the second season shows Vancouver truly believes Lack is an NHL-capable goalie.
Lack believes it too and is eager to prove he is ready now for the NHL after two years in the minors. But he also saw the uncertainty that comes with an NHL pay day this season after on-ice sessions with a small group of Swedish stoppers that includes new Tampa Bay No.1 Anders Lindback, who has no idea when to come back to North America.
“At least I know where I am going,” said Lack, who was hoping to fly to Vancouver later this week to start skating informally and will report to training camp of the AHL Chicago Wolves in late September if there isn’t one sooner for the parent-club Canucks.
After a summer focused on improving core and leg strength – with a little roller hockey, tennis and cross-training mixed in to help improve lateral movement and eye-hand coordination – Lack is ready for either possibility, and excited to get back on the ice.
Nicknamed “Stork,” the 6-foot-5 Lack said he hasn’t worried about the Canucks’ crowded crease. He is just focused on continuing his transition from late-blooming Swede to top NHL prospect under the guidance of Canucks’ goalie coach Roland Melanson.
Like Schneider and Luongo, Lack’s evolution under Melanson has included backing up in his crease to shorten and limit the movements that can open up holes in a frame as big as his. It was a big step back for Lack, who talked to InGoal about the adjustment shortly after his arrival in North America two summers ago, but one he has become more and more comfortable with over two seasons in the AHL.
Not that it’s been easy. As Lack pointed out in a lengthy chat about style and technique, after years of challenging aggressively in Sweden, it’s not a simple mental flick of the switch to trust that playing deeper will allow you to succeed, especially when you are now facing better shooters. But he said seeing Loungo – and more so Schneider – have success with the same adjustments made it easier to trust it will translate in the NHL. Many even suggest it gets easier for goalies in the NHL because there’s more reliable structure, and fewer mistakes made, in front of them than in the AHL.
“I’ve heard that too, that it could be easier in the NHL,” Lack said. “I kind of want to wait and make my own opinion, but watching guys like Cory Schneider – because Rollie came at same time as I did and introduced another way of playing for Cory too – and seeing him play that way and play that good, it motivates me to play that way too. A lot of people didn’t think Cory could play that game because he was a little bit smaller than me and Roberto, but you see he’s one of the best out there now.”
Lack admitted it wasn’t easy to wait this long for the new deal, which reportedly pays him $650,000 in the NHL and $85,000 in the AHL this season, and $850,000 at either level next year, because he was used to signing past contracts as early as May. But he insisted staying and playing in the Swedish Elite League “was never an option” because he “always wanted to stay with Vancouver” and “to play my first NHL game there.”
As for when that might happen, a lockout could actually speed up the process.
If the NHL does start late, Lack should already be in rhythm while others scramble to get up to speed in a shortened preseason. And he’ll already be facing more NHL shooters.
“If there is a lockout the AHL is going to be a lot better too, so that’s very good for me to see more NHL shooters,” Lack said. “Right now I just look forward to getting started because there was a lot of question marks up in the air just a day ago.”
Look for a more complete breakdown of Lack’s evolution in the September edition of InGoal’s digital Magazine, and in the meantime the big Swede was kind enough to take Ask a Pro questions from our readers about his new gear, post-game recovery and training, and what it’s like to be a Canucks prospect in the rival city of Chicago:
Ryan Ferguson asks: Are you going to be wearing Brian’s G-netik pads this season?
Eddie Lack: “Yeah that’s what I am doing. I have been in them for three weeks now maybe. The first thing people will notice is the glove. They showed it to me in March and I was like, ‘yeah, can I keep this?’ It really felt smooth in your hand.”
(Editor’s Note: Look for more from Lack and InGoal on Brian’s G-Netik line in the September Magazine, and weekly newsletters, and be sure to check out the latest teaser on their Goalies Only website)
Christian Allan Lim asks: Do you have any post-game or post-practice routines that you do on a regular basis?
Eddie Lack: “My strength coach actually helps me with stretching a couple times a week at least, just groin and back and legs and stuff like that to keep me nice and loose. After a game or practice I usually have a program that I do with a lot of band work and stuff like that, with squats to keep my legs going. Post-game routine, when we play and don’t have another game for a couple of days I usually get a lift in too right after the game.”
Alfredo Castaneda asks: What’s a good pre-game meal – and don’t say crawfish (Editor’s note: it’s a running theme on Lack’s twitter account, @eddielack).
Eddie Lack: “Me and Jordan Schroeder were roommates last year and we had this pre-game meal with tilapia, wild rice and Tzatziki, so that is kind of what we had the entire year. Everyone else has the normal chicken and pasta, and we started with that, but then he kind of switched it up in November and scored two or three goals in that game and I was like, ‘yeah, I am going to try this one,’ so I tried it and I kind of felt so much lighter without the pasta and with the rice instead, so I kept it going.”
Jr Reynolds Jr asks: At what Age did you decide to really focus on being a tendy and think you might be able to do more with it”
Eddie Lack: “When I was 13 my dad and I moved from the city I grew up in Norrtälje and moved to Stockholm so I could play for a better team. We had a really good team and won a lot of tournaments, so I kind of started to figure out then that it takes a lot of hard work, but I might have a shot at this.”
Joe Drennan asks: With the rivalry between the Canucks and Blackhawks, how is it playing for the Canucks AHL team in Chicago?
Eddie Lack: “(laughs) Some of the Wolves fans doesn’t like Vancouver. But they support us for playing for the Wolves, so it really hasn’t been any trouble except for some people coming forward and saying ‘yeah, when you make the big jump, we’re not going to cheer for you.’ But I’ve been very fortunate playing first for the Manitoba Moose and now for Wolves, so all the talk about long bus rides and stuff, I haven’t really had to see that.”
With his current contract structure, he shouldn’t have to anytime soon either.