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Quick Strikes: Why Andrei Vasilevskiy is worth his contract

Imagine being the most important player on a team and not getting paid like it.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets
Apr 16, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) hugs Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after game four of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bolts

On Monday morning, Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they had agreed to terms on an eight-year contract extension for the young Russian goaltender. The Big Cat will make $9.5 million per year over those eight years, a contract that has reset the market for goaltenders. [Raw Charge]

According to Joe Smith of The Athletic, Vasilevskiy will receive a no-move clause for the first four years of his contract and a ten-team no trade for the final three years. That’s notable in that he received less trade protection than the other big stars the Lightning have signed and could be an indication that General Manager Julien BriseBois would like to reel in the degree of trade protection that was handed out under previous GM Steve Yzerman.

Now, there was a lot of backlash from this deal by Bolts fans who believe that goalies shouldn’t be making that much. To those people I say, if stopping goals means as much as scoring them, then why shouldn’t the best goalies in the world make as much as the best scorers in the world?

With Vasy locked up for his entire prime (25-33), the Lightning don’t have to worry about finding a goalie for the rest of this competitive window. It also means that the contract will get better over time (as long as Vasilevskiy continues to be a Vezina-calibre goalie) as the hard salary cap increases. Seattle is joining the league, big markets like Toronto and New York are on the rise, and hockey is becoming more and more popular in the United States.

Geo wrote a great piece on the trade. One thing I’ll comment on about the article is that I’m glad Vasy is going to play half the contract in his 20s, which it not something any of the comparables currently used can brag about. [Raw Charge]

While the cost for Vasilevskiy is quite high, it’s not quite up there with some of the other top contracts when you use percentage of the salary cap as a gauge. You also have to recognize how significant it is that he won a Vezina trophy at the age of 24. Only 15 players have won it in their age-24 season or younger with Patrick Roy and Terry Sawchuk doing it twice each for 17 times total.

Lightning reporter Caley Chelios flew to Montreal to catch up with a handful of Lightning players over the summer.

The Prospects

In Solar Bears news, Chris LeBlanc is back after signing an ECHL contract with the team.

The Game

The Arizona Coyotes have a new owner: Alex Meruelo, a billionaire from California. Meruelo has bought 95% of the Coyotes, leaving the other 5% in the hands of former owner Andrew Barroway. Hopefully, this means the Coyotes will finally pay for a team that can get them out of their current state of mediocrity. [NHL dot com]

“This is an incredible moment for me and my entire family,” said Meruelo. “The Arizona Coyotes team is poised to do great things on and off the ice. I look forward to helping hockey continue to thrive in the desert, and I am committed to providing our passionate fans, loyal partners and the entire State of Arizona with a team they can be proud of for years to come.”

Also from the desert, the Vegas Golden Knights have traded KHL star Nikita Gusev to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2020 third-round pick. The Golden Knights weren’t going to be able to afford Gusev, who wanted to come to North America, so they had to trade him to cap space abundant New Jersey. [Knights on Ice]

The dealing of Gusev practically caps off an offseason for the Golden Knights that ends in, what could be, the worst case scenario. Once Vegas signed William Karlsson to his eight-year, $47.2 million deal on June 24, the cap-shedding moves were on the way. The Golden Knights traded forward Erik Haula to Carolina on June 27, and defenseman Colin Miller was shipped to Buffalo the following day.

While the Knights have been shedding cap space all summer, the Devils have been buying it in bucket loads. It started with PK Subban, then Wayne Simmonds, and now Gusev, who signed a $4.5 million per year for two years. Add to that Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Taylor Hall, and the Devils are good again. [All About the Jersey]

Gusev was initially drafted by Tampa Bay in the seventh round way back in 2012. Gusev remained playing in Russia. The Vegas Golden Knights were onto something when they acquired his rights from Tampa Bay in 2017 at the expansion draft. However, Gusev signed an extension with SKA St. Petersburg weeks later and would go on to have his first of three outstanding KHL seasons.

Oh, right, he used to be a Bolt pick... Uhh... Moving on.

Finally, the NWHL schedule for 2019-2020 is here. The five teams will play in a newly-expanded 24-game schedule, and will get a pay raise. [NWHL]

The increases were a result of the strides made by the players and the NWHL. Last season, 16 of the 46 games drew sold-out crowds. The 2019 NWHL All-Star Game in Nashville had a crowd of 6,200 - the largest ever for a professional women’s hockey game in the U.S. Combined, the NWHL Skills Challenge (sold out at Ford Ice Center) and All-Star Game generated more than one million viewers on Twitter.