In need of a veteran goalie to serve as backup for Ilya Samsonov next season, the Capitals reportedly are poised to grab one of the biggest names off the market. According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Capitals are the "clear frontrunner" to sign Henrik Lundqvist to a "short-term, bargain contract."
The deal cannot be finalized until Friday after 12 p.m. once the free agency officially opens.
Signing Lundqvist was a perfect scenario for Washington once the news came out that he was being bought out of his contract by the New York Rangers. Backup goalie is an obvious need for Washington with the pending departure of Braden Holtby. The Caps need a veteran goalie who can mentor Samsonov, but also play a high number of games as a tandem goalie. Samsonov has 26 total games of NHL experience so expecting him to simply step into the starting role next season and play a heavy majority of games was unrealistic, especially considering the schedule is likely to be very compressed.
Lundqvist managed a .905 save percentage and 3.16 GAA in 30 games last season. There are probably better backup goalies on the market, but getting a player of Lundqvist's pedigree who would be willing to take a backup role, mentor Samsonov and sign a short-term deal for cheap certainly checks a lot of boxes for what the Caps needed.
So why the Caps?
Lundqvist is already 38 years old and the chances of finding a No. 1 role were remote, especially given the stacked goalie market this year. The one thing he has not accomplished in his storied career is winning a Cup so likely finding a contender was high among his priorities for a new team. The Caps hope to be a contender again after two lackluster seasons with the hiring of head coach Peter Laviolette. Backing up a young, inexperienced goalie like Samsonov in a compressed schedule will also provide Lundqvist more starts than playing behind a more established starter.
Plus, it will mean being in the same division with the Rangers.