It was the worst kept secret in hockey. Long-time New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has signed a one-year deal with the Capitals for $1.5 million.
"Henrik is one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, and we are pleased to have him join our organization," said general manager Brian MacLellan. "Henrik has the competitive drive and the ability to help our team compete for a championship. We feel he will be an excellent fit for our team and provide leadership to our organization and our young goaltenders."
Lundqvist and the Capitals had been linked almost immediately after Lundqvist was bought out by the Rangers as both sides saw in the other a perfect fit.
For the Caps, they gain an experienced goalie who can mentor and play a supporting role for the young Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov will likely take over the mantle as the team's starter from Braden Holtby in the 2020-21 season.
In the Caps, Lundqvist gets to continue his pursuit of a Stanley Cup, which is pretty much the only accolade that has eluded him in an illustrious career that has spanned 15 years and 887 games, all with New York. He has won a Vezina as the league's top netminder, a world championship and an Olympic gold medal, but not a Stanley Cup.
With a cap hit of only $1.5 million, Lundqvist really is the perfect fit for the Capitals. Washington needed a cheap backup goalie who could not only be a mentor but step in and play a significant number of games just in case the workload proves to be too heavy for Samsonov.
Samsonov has played in only 26 NHL games in his career. The most games he has played in a single season is only 37 which he did in 2018-19 with the Hershey Bears in the AHL so expecting him to go from that to 60 or more starts would be quite a leap. Lundqvist will certainly be called upon next season considering what will likely be a very compressed schedule.
The signing marks the end of Braden Holtby's time in Washington. Holtby also earned a Vezina and helped the team to its only Stanley Cup in 2018. He has spent his entire NHL career with the Caps, but the emergence of Samsonov and the team's need to free up salary-cap space precipitated Holtby's inevitable departure.
“We want to thank Braden Holtby for his many contributions to the Washington Capitals," MacLellan said. "Braden has built a legacy both on and off the ice that will have a lasting impact on our organization and on our community. Winning the Vezina Trophy in 2016, the Jennings Trophy in 2017 and helping the team win the Stanley Cup with his stellar play in 2018 cements his position as one of the best goalies of his era. Off the ice, he led by example and consistently made a positive impact across several important initiatives. We wish him and his family all the best moving forward."
Holtby's cap hit was $6.1 million meaning Washington will enjoy a $4.6 million savings on the cap next season between its two goalies.
Lundqvist essentially checks all the boxes for what the Caps needed in a netminder thus allowing MacLellan to avoid the free-agent frenzy of what is a very loaded goalie market.