It started with Boston’s new No.1 Tuukka Rask, promoted to a role he’s held before when Bruins incumbent Tim Thomas decided to take next season off to spend time with family, signing a one-year, $3,5-million contract in the morning.
Not long after that, the Los Angeles Kings went in an entirely different direction, announcing a whopping 10-year, $58-million extension for their recent Stanley Cup- and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goaltender, Jonathan Quick.
And as the evening wound down, the Vancouver Canucks got in on the action and split those uprights with a three-year, $12-million extension for emerging starter Cory Schneider, further greasing the skids for the impending departure of Roberto Luongo.
“Really excited!” Schneider said in a late-night text response to InGoal, respectfully and politely deferring further comment until the new contract was made official on Friday morning.
So why the discrepancy in the deals for three goaltenders with at similar arcs in their promising career paths?
It has a lot to do with leverage and their impending free agency status.
Sure Quick, 26, hit the homerun in part because of the incredible success he just enjoyed, including finishing second to Henrik Lundqvist in Vezina voting after a remarkable season that should have also warranted MVP votes. But Quick, who has one year left on his old deal that pays him $1.7-million next season, was poised to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent once that current contract expired next summer, and the Kings had to pay more to prevent that.
That they did so and kept Quick under contract until 2022-23 says a lot about their belief in the ongoing development and fierce work ethic of a goaltender who already owns 10 franchise goaltending records, and almost every single-season mark.
“We are very happy to have a long-term agreement in place with one of our top young players,” Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said in a release, adding he wouldn’t comment more until the deal can be officially signed on July 1.[*Editors Note: The new InGoal Magazine, out next week, features 12 pages of insight into Quick's development, including the work the Kings did to reign in his remarkable athleticism and flexibility with better technique, a head-to-toe breakdown of his equipment tweaks, and a skate scoop on how he manages to make strong pushes from such a low, wide stance]
Similarly, the differences between Rask and Schneider, whose similarities are remarkable, have to do with free agent status.
Both were set to become restricted free agents on July 1, but unlike the Bruins and Rask, the Canucks would have had to wait until July 5 to file for salary arbitration, leaving the 26-year-old open to predatory offer sheets from other teams for an uncomfortable five-day period. And because Schneider, like Quick, was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, a one-year deal, either through matching an offer sheet or in salary arbitration, was risky for Vancouver.
So essentially the Canucks paid more for two years of unrestricted free agency from Schneider, who made it clear in the InGoal Ask A Pro at the end of the season that he was ready for a bigger role than backing up Luongo.
Rask, meanwhile, won’t be an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2014, giving the Bruins another season before they have to worry about losing the 25-year-old – and the luxury of a one-year contract to prove himself as the unquestioned No.1.
Rask has already been the Bruins’ No.1 before, supplanting an injured Thomas in 2009-10 before the veteran bounced back after hip surgery to reclaim the job and lead Boston to the Stanley Cup in 2010-11, claiming his second Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. Last season, Rask was 11-8 with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage behind Thomas.
Thursday’s signings come just three days after the Winnipeg Jets locked up their restricted free agent starter, Ondrej Pavalec with a five year, $19.5 million deal that comes with a $3.9-million salary cap hit that is more than Rask ($3.5 million), slightly less than Schneider ($4 million), and almost two million below Quick ($5.8 million).
No sooner did those goalies come off the market, however, then another big name appeared ready to test free agency.
According to TSN Insider Darren Dreger, New Jersey legend Martin Brodeur hired agent Pat Brisson in preparation for possible hitting the open market on Sunday – the 40-year-old has been negotiating his own deals with the Devils since firing agent Gilles Lupien way back in the mid-1990s. It’s an interesting option, one that almost certainly has to do with he uncertainty of the Devils’ ownership situation. But the reality is the Devils have always built their system around the old school stand-up style of Brodeur, allowing open shots in places most teams would try to block them, and he may not be a fit in most other systems.