By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Goalie Tuukka Rask signed an eight-year, $56 million contract extension with the Boston Bruins.
Rask is now at the top of the goaltenders pay list along with Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, and slightly more than Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers (cap hit of $6.875 million).
Rask is an excellent goaltender. He was solid for the Bruins in 2009-10 when Tim Thomas was injured, with a 1.97 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in 45 games.
Rask then had to bide his time the next two years behind Thomas, but that changed last year when Thomas decided to walk away from the Bruins and the NHL.
Rask inherited the No. 1 goalie position and was superb in the regular season and even better in the playoffs. He had a 1.88 GAA and a .940 save percentage along with three shutouts in the postseason.
The Blackhawks know how good Rask was because he had a 2-1 lead after three games of the Stanley Cup Final, and with a couple of breaks it could have been Rask and the Bruins lifting the cup and not Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks.
But it was Crawford and the Blackhawks who won, largely because they were just a bit better than Rask and the Bruins. Crawford has to be fairly thrilled and intrigued at Rask’s new contract. His time to get paid is certainly coming.
Crawford is under contract to the Blackhawks for the 2013-14 season and he will earn $2.667 million – about $800,000 less than Rask earned last year.
It’s also about $4.3 million less than Rask’s average salary for his new deal.
Crawford is going to get his money and he is going to deserve what he gets. However, it’s a huge question as to whether he will get it from the Blackhawks.
The team did not want to pay Antti Niemi after he led them to the 2010 Stanley Cup and they walked away from Niemi after a sizable arbitration award that summer.
There’s no guarantee that the Blackhawks will do the same to Crawford when it’s time to give him a new deal, but the philosophy around the team is that having an all-world goaltender is not as important to the Blackhawks as it is to most other teams.
That’s because the Blackhawks are the best puck-possession team in the league. Since they have the puck more often than their opponents, they have more quality scoring chances. They need their goaltender to be good; they don’t need him to be the best in the world.
That means they don’t have to pay him the most money, either.
At least that’s how the theory goes. I’m not so sure it’s true. I think Crawford is every bit as good as Rask and he may even be a tad better. Not only did Crawford come out on top in his goalie duel with Rask in the Stanley Cup Final, he also beat Jonathan Quick in the Western Conference Final. At the start of that series, Quick had been anointed as “the best goalie in the world.”
Crawford also overcame personal demons in the 2013 playoffs. Remember what happened in 2012 against the Phoenix Coyotes? Crawford couldn’t stop a beach ball when the series went to overtime. He let in three overtime goals, two of which were pillow-soft.
This time around, Crawford was superb in overtime, winning five of seven decisions, including the epic triple overtime first game of the Stanley Cup Final.
Crawford also has the unique ability to focus on the next shot. He can put any goal allowed behind him.
In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, Crawford was exposed in the 6-5 overtime victory in Boston. The Bruins learned that all they had to do was fire the puck “glove-hand high” and they would destroy Crawford.
Just how much was Crawford bothered in Games 5 or 6? Not at all. He gave up three goals in the final two games as the Blackhawks brought home the Stanley Cup.
The numbers say that Crawford had a 16-7 playoff record, a 1.84 GAA and a .932 save percentage. His performance says that he is one of the best goalies in the league.
He is going to get his money sooner or later.
Whether it will be with the Blackhawks is the question at hand.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.