“Since joining the organization Andrei has shown unmatched work ethic and professionalism both on and off the ice,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said in a statement. “We look forward to him continuing his career in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.”
The extension begins with the 2020-21 season and keeps Vasilevskiy with the team through the 2027-28 season. He will make $3.5 million next season — the final year of a deal he signed in 2016.
We assess the deal within the context of the “don’t pay for goalies” movement:
In three seasons as the Lightning’s primary goaltender, Vasilevskiy has established himself as elite. For goalies with at least 4,000 minutes played, he’s fourth in goals saved above average (46.58) and save percentage (.921). Using Evolving Hockey‘s expected save percentage via Fenwick shot attempts, he’s second (94.24).
If you’re someone that appreciates wins as a goalie metric — looking at you, Ben Bishop — then Vasilevskiy’s led the league with 44 and 39 victories behind a very good Lightning team in the last two seasons. It’s no coincidence, then, that he was a Vezina finalist in those years, winning his first award this June.
All of this is great. But the deal only makes sense if you’re one that believes that any goalie should be given a term of seven years or more.
When Vasilevskiy’s contract extension kicks in for the 2020-21 season, there will be at least five other goalies with contracts of seven or more years that they signed in their 20s. Two of these goalies have won Stanley Cups. The others … haven’t.
Two of them look like bargains: Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, who is arguably better than Vasilevskiy, is signed to a $6.4 million AAV through 2027, making this perhaps the best contract in the NHL at the moment, considering he’s just 26. Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, 32, has a $7 million cap hit on an eight-year term that runs through 2021.
Two of them are a bit more specious. New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider signed a seven-year extension with the Devils at age 28 at $6 million AAV, and hasn’t posted a save percentage above .908 since 2016. Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick signed a 10-year, pre-CBA adjustment deal in 2012 at a $5.8 million cap hit, a deal that the Kings are still trying to move as he turns 34 next season.
Then there’s Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and his $10.5 million AAV on an eight-year term that runs through 2026 — a contract the Habs will tell you was signed out of necessity for a franchise player.
Which brings us back to Vasilevskiy.
Price was signed to a deal worth 14 percent of the salary cap at the time, with a full no-movement clause for the duration of the deal. Vasilevskiy signed for 11.66 percent of the current cap. Of course, this is where Montreal fans will scream about state tax advantages, although those don’t account for Vasilevskiy only having a full no-movement clause for half his contract vs. the total protection Price has.
Price’s contract was also front-loaded with $45.75 million in signing bonus money in the first four years, while Vasilevskiy’s has $30 million. Yet in the final two years of Vasilevskiy’s deal, he has $3 million signing bonuses in each. The contract is structured so the Lightning can pay him a bonus in summer of 2026 and then ship him out to one of the teams on his list who will pay him $5.5 million on average for the next two seasons for a $9.5 million cap hit.
Of the two “franchise goalie” deals, there’s no question Vasilevskiy’s is the shrewder investment on paper.
One goalie on a long-term deal we haven’t mentioned is Sergei Bobrovsky, because he just signed his massive seven-year, $70-million deal with the Florida Panthers (12.27 percent of the cap) as a 30-year-old. His previous contract carried a $7.425 AAV on a four-year term, which he signed as a 26-year-old with the Columbus Blues Jackets two years after his first of two Vezina wins. The hand-wringing on Bobrovsky’s new deal isn’t about the money, but rather the term. Yet there’s far less concern that he won’t be good for, say, the next three seasons.
To that end, the Lightning have just locked up a goalie — who projects to have the kind of impact that Bob has had — for the next nine seasons, or until he’s 33. Or, he ends up being a cautionary tale like Cory Schneider. Long-term deals for goalies can go either way.
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The other aspect of this deal, obviously, is what it means for the Lightning’s economics. Center Brayden Point is a restricted free agent who needs a new contract this summer, and the Lightning have about $5.5 million in cap space available before Ryan Callahan‘s $5.8 million goes on LTIR. So they should be able to get under this season without any more moves like shipping out J.T. Miller last month.
Next summer, they’ll have a bit more room, but will have to sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev to their second contracts. Those, plus the Point money and this contract for Vasilevskiy, probably means the departure of someone like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat or Alex Killorn — and unlike the other two, Killorn’s trade protection moves to a partial no-trade clause next summer.
GM Julien BriseBois has made it clear with this contract that the Lightning consider Vasilevskiy the kind of foundational player you build around, like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Steven Stamkos. There’s enough evidence to believe he might be right, even as the term remains a frightening one for a goalie in general. But we imagine there are more than a few NHL teams in a constant scramble for certainty in the crease that’d kill for the chance to have a Vezina winner in his mid-20s locked up for nearly the next decade.
Overall grade: B-plus