Big NHL contracts are a funny thing.
When they’re first signed, there’s usually an avalanche of “overpaid,” “too many years,” “not worth it” comments.
As time goes on (if a player holds up his end of the deal), the contract usually ends up getting a little better. Salaries around the league rise, and what was a huge number looks more average.
If things go swimmingly, that big deal ends up looking like a bargain as the contract nears its end. It’s how things have trended with David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron (though those last two have deals that have looked great from the beginning), and it’s how things are starting to shake out with Tuukka Rask.
Over the past few weeks, Atlantic Division teams have committed giant sums of money to Russian goalies. First, the Florida Panthers signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a deal with a cap hit of $10 million per season; this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Andrei Vasilevskiy to a deal with a cap hit of $9.5 million per season.
It’s worth noting that Andrei Vasilevskiy’s deal is an extension, one that doesn’t kick in until after the upcoming season. Still, for all intents and purposes, Rask is now the fourth-highest paid goalie in his own division.
When the 2020-2021 season rolls around, Rask will be tied with Marc-Andre Fleury for the fifth-highest cap hit among NHL goalies. Goalies making more than Rask will be Carey Price, Bobrovsky, Vasilevskiy, and Henrik Lundqvist.
The Bobrosvky contract is probably going to look horrible halfway through the deal, but who knows? The point here isn’t necessarily to see which goalie has the best deal; instead, because it’s the summer and there’s little else going on, it’s worth wondering where Rask stands in his own division.
Last season, it was a two-horse race between Rask and Vasilevskiy for the Atlantic Division crown, with Carey Price lost in the shuffle because of Montreal’s woes and Frederik Andersen up and down, as usual (though he probably deserves to be thrown into that top tier). This year, you could argue that Rask is now in the middle of the pack.
Price, Vasilevskiy and Bobrosvky are, at worst, peers to Rask, and are arguably better; throw Frederik Andersen (when he’s on one of his hot streaks, of course) into the mix and it’s a pretty tight race.
Per Corsica, here’s how the four matched up last season in a few different categories:
xSv%: Vasilevskiy (92.85%), Price (92.42%), Rask (92.39%), Andersen (92.3%), Bobrovsky (91.77%)
dSv%: Andersen (0.62), Price (0.5), Rask (0.3), Vasilevskiy (0.07), Bobrosvky (0.01)
GSAA: Andersen (9.88), Rask (2.88), Vasilevskiy (0.98), Price (0.77), Bobrosvky (0.2)
HDSv%: Bobrosvky (83.73%), Rask (81.5%), Andersen (79.57%), Price (78.57%), Vasilevskiy (77.03%)
Using these analytics, it’s kind of a toss-up. The surprising thing is how well Andersen fairs, and how poorly (used relatively here, of course) Bobrosvky fails.
In terms of career going forward, it’s inarguable that Vasilevskiy has the brightest long-term future; he’s just 25, and is likely only going to get better. Price and Rask are entering the back-nine of their careers, as is Bobrovsky (at the start of his deal too).
So, let’s change the argument: where would you rank the goalies in the Atlantic Division over the next three seasons?
For me, it’s:
- Whoever Detroit, Buffalo, and Ottawa trot out there.
Rask and Price are a tough toss-up, and things will largely depend on Price’s ability to stay healthy. Still, I think he’s probably the most talented and fundamentally sound among the group, and should still have some good years left.
We could have a completely different argument regarding goaltending tandems or overall organizational strength in net, but let’s just stick with starters for now.