Tuukka Rask finally signed his extension with the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, converting his bargain basement one-year “show-me” deal into $56 million spread out over eight years.
The immediate reaction is that this is a hell of a lot of money and years for a guy who really only has two good kind-of full seasons in the league. Obviously he was in that 1a-1b platoon with Tim Thomas in 2009-10, when he posted the best GAA and save percentage in the league and, now that the starting job was his again, nearly replicated those numbers over 36 games in this, his age-25 season. That should have been enough to convince any reasonable observer that he’s one of the best netminders on earth (even if he’s obviously benefiting to some extent from the Bruins’ system) and thus Boston had to pay him accordingly.
The problem with that is that the run on even remotely elite goaltending is going to become an arms race in short order, and if a team has such a player under contract now, they’ll soon be paying through the nose for him.
The person you can probably blame for all this is Pekka Rinne, whose deal began last season and paid him $7 million — the same dollar amount as Rask — over the following seven seasons, with one of those having elapsed already. Whether he actually “earned” that contract playing behind Shea Weber and Ryan Suter for 30 minutes a night is up for debate (and I’d argue that he didn’t,) but he got the money anyway, and thus began an era of significantly overpaying even good netminders.
Rask got perhaps the biggest deal he could reasonably expect given the Bruins’ cap situation, but on paper he probably should have received more per year than Rinne. Here’s the thing with the goalie market: Lots of guys are going to be making a lot of money starting this season. If you had to ballpark it, you’d have probably said good-to-great goaltenders used to go for about $5.5 million, but that was back when you could circumvent the cap.
Of the eight goalies I’d characterize as “good” whose deals began between 2008 and 2010 when the salary cap was in the high-$50-millions range, and run through at least the end of the 2014 season, their average cap hit comes in at a little more than $5.48 million million. Those guys are Cam Ward, Roberto Luongo, Jonas Hiller, Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller, Henrik Lundqvist, Miikka Kiprusoff and Marc-Andre Fleury, and obviously their deals have worked out to degrees varying from very well (Lundqvist) to disastrously (Luongo).