Almost from the moment Henrik Lundqvist was bought out by the New York Rangers he has been linked to the Capitals. Those rumors and reports became official on Friday when Lundqvist signed a one-year deal with Washington. From the outside looking in, it certainly appeared as if both Lundqvist and the Caps acted fast, but for Lundqvist, Friday's move to Washington was a long-time coming.
For anyone who had followed the Rangers in 2019-20, it was becoming more and more clear that Lundqvist's time with the organization was coming to an end. With the emergence of 24-year-old netminders Igor Shesterkin and Alexander Georgiev, New York had one goalie too many and there was no more room for the 38-year-old Lundqvist.
Lundqvist on Friday said that by spring, "I kind of knew where this was going." Though it took some time for him to mentally accept that his time in New York was done, after that he got to work.
"For a few weeks now, I've been doing my homework on all different scenarios and options for me, and I have to say, the Capitals, they checked every box," Lundqvist said. "When it comes to a team that understands winning, a great coaching staff and an opportunity to play some games were the main factors for me."
Though there were many factors that went into his decision, there was one factor that stood above all the rest: winning.
"I think at this point in my career, that's the most important thing. I want to have a chance to win," Lundqvist said.
A Stanley Cup is about the only thing Lundqvist has not accomplished in his storied career. He has won a Vezina, Olympic gold and a world championship, but never a Cup. With his career nearing its end, that chance to win is now what matters most.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan could tell that and cited it as one of the reasons why Washington had an instant interest in signing Lundqvist.
“I think Henrik’s experience, his resume, his leadership ability, desire to win. I think a lot of things were attractive to our organization to bring him in," MacLellan said. "I think he has a big presence. I think the biggest thing is his desire to win a championship. I think it’s a big deal for our organization and for him and I think it’s a good match overall.”
But Washington is not the only contending team out there in need of a goalie like Lundqvist. Plus, after seeing the team lose in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons it is fair to wonder if that window is still open for the Caps. Rather than focusing on teams that may have been able to offer him more money or a bigger role, there was something that seemed to draw Lundqvist to Washington.
“It’s just a feeling when you come to Washington and I think it starts from the top of the owner and down how they treat the players, the city, the fans playing in that building," Lundqvist said. "There’s always excitement there to come and play in Washington and they’ve been hard to play against each other in the playoffs for many years. But it’s the way they operate from top to bottom and also I always enjoyed coming to Washington as a city. I think it’s a beautiful city. I think in this decision it was so many different things that added up to it made sense for me and my family to make this move."
Lundqvist now stands as the biggest name, if not the most impactful, of the team's retooling as the Caps look to win the Cup in their final years as contenders with the Alex Ovechkin-led core.
Said Lundqvist, "I want to see myself lift that Cup and I want to do it in Washington."