Henrik Lundqvist heads to Capitals: Why the signing works and why it doesn't

4 min


85
13 shares, 85 points

Jackie Spiegel

Henrik Lundqvist heads to Capitals: Why the signing works and why it doesn't 1

Henrik Lundqvist is heading to the DMV. 

After being bought out by the Rangers on Sept. 30 (yes, because he wore No. 30, it happened on the 30th), Lundqvist became an unrestricted free agent and then signed a one-year, $ 1.5 million contract with the Capitals on Friday.

It was long speculated that he’d continue his career in the Beltway but it still was a surprise when it became official. The deal should work out well for both the organization and Lundqvist; however, there are two elements that could impact whether it truly ends as they all hope — with a Stanley Cup.

Sporting News breaks down why the move to Washington works and why it doesn’t for Lundqvist.

Why it works

It makes sense economically for the Capitals, who were up against the cap and didn’t have much room to spend on a netminder. They acquire a Hall of Fame backstop to push their young stud in net, Ilya Samsonov. In 26 games (22 starts), the 23-year-old posted a 16-6-2 record, a .913 save percentage and a 2.30 Goals Saved Above Average. 

For his part, Lundqvist is coming off a decent year where he only played in 30 games (26 starts) and had a .905 save percentage and minus-4.16 GSAA. It was his lightest workload, well, ever, so there’s a good chance the 38-year-old will be well-rested come the start of the season, whenever that is. 

Along with his ridiculous resume, the Capitals are getting a player who is as meticulous with his work ethic as he is with his fashion and finely tailored suits.

“He works harder than anybody else,” his former teammate Martin Biron told Sporting News recently when discussing Lundqvist’s Rangers career. “Henrik is probably the best reaction goaltender I’ve ever had a chance to watch. I always thought that the game slowed down [for him] to a point where, if the guy shot the puck, in his head it slowed right down that he was able to go and react with either the blocker or the glove or the leg pad and make the save.

“For me and for the majority of goalies the game doesn’t slow down and sometimes we hope it’s going to catch our shoulder or we’re lucky to react to it because maybe we anticipated well. He doesn’t cheat and he doesn’t anticipate all that much . . . reflexes were off the charts, and I was always amazed by that.”

As noted by Biron, Samsonov will now have a premier mentor who sees the game at another level. But he’ll also have a teammate who will want starts between the pipes just as much as he will.

“He was driven to be great and let his greatness drive everything else . . . and he never stopped,” noted NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, another former teamamte, to Sporting News. “[His game] was all based on [a] hyper, hypercompetitive spirit and hyperdrive to be great and [a] commitment to excellence.”

That was evident as Lundqvist spoke to reporters Friday after the ink was dry and explained his reasoning for heading a few hours down the Eastern Seaboard to D.C. 

“There’s so many things that goes into this decision for me, starting with a chance to win. I think at this point in my career, that’s the most important thing,” he said, adding that he has been skating. “I want to have a chance to win.”

But how long is Washington’s window open? That’s the big question right now.

Regardless, it doesn’t hurt that there will be a few familiar faces waiting to welcome Lundqvist with (socially distanced) open arms. He has skated with Nicklas Backstrom (won Olympic silver in 2014 and World Championship gold in 2017 with him for Sweden), played in a number of All-Star games with Alex Ovechkin and been a teammate of Carl Hagelin.

“I talked to all three,” Lundqvist said Friday. “They all say it’s a tight group of guys. I heard that even before I signed. I heard a lot of good things about the group but also talking to the guys. They’ve been through a lot together, and you grow as a group when you go through all the things they’ve been through. And also they have an older group, experienced group. That really attracted me.”

Why it doesn’t

Lundqvist said on the call with reporters that he’s open to whatever role new bench boss Peter Laviolette doles out. But let’s be honest, he wants to play. As Weekes said, he’s hypercompetitive and Lundqvist tweeted on Oct. 4: “I still love to compete. I still love the game and I still want to WIN!”

So can he handle taking a back seat if Samsonov’s trajectory continues to rise?

“I know I have an opportunity to play if I do really well, but I also understand Washington has a really young goalie in Samsonov, a great goalie,” Lundqvist said. “He played really well last year. So I embrace the whole thing coming here and try to help and support him, but obviously also perform really well.

“Whatever the role will be, I’m ready for it. But right now, I can only control my preparation and the training and the mindset going into next year and then we’ll just take it from there.”

What that role will be is to be determined and that’s kind of the crux of the matter. Laviolette is brand, spanking new in D.C. and while he has had success in his previous stops, including a Stanley Cup in Carolina and two more trips to the final round, there are no guarantees his systems will fall perfectly into place in the first year. And, as mentioned above, Washington’s window to win may also be closing. Of course, Lundqvist could re-sign for more time, although let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Time will tell on that one, but one thing that is definite is this: It’ll be tough for Rangers fans to see Lundqvist four times a year — twice at the Garden — in another team’s jersey. Many expected him to sign out west to avoid seeing the MSG faithful (as long as fans are allowed back in the building, of course) so often and with a division rival, to boot.

Regardless, he’ll get the Eddie Giacomin, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch treatment when he does step into the crease across the way from where he played for 15 years.

“I haven’t thought that far playing the one game back,” he said as he aims to turn his gaze forward. “Now it’s more, prepare for Chapter 2. It’s been a long Chapter 1 in New York that I will never forget. I will always appreciate that time. It brings me so much joy thinking back of all the memories and players I played with and the opportunities they gave me so forever grateful for that.

“I also felt ready for the next step because I realized how much I love the game, how much I love to compete. And then looking at the different options I had and looking at Washington and how excited I got thinking about going to Washington. Obviously it’s been a pretty emotional week, but it’s exciting times ahead here. That’s where we’re at.”


Like it? Share with your friends!

85
13 shares, 85 points

What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
14
hate
confused confused
6
confused
fail fail
20
fail
fun fun
18
fun
geeky geeky
16
geeky
love love
10
love
lol lol
12
lol
omg omg
6
omg
win win
20
win

Read exclusive latest news on entertainment, music, gaming and more topics with unprecedented coverage from around the UK and US.

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.