For days, it's been apparent that the Capitals were planning to sign longtime goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a deal as soon as NHL free agency began.
That finally happened Friday afternoon, and it was announced that the terms of the deal would be $1.5 million for one year. Henrik will be replacing Stanley Cup-winning Braden Holtby in net, though it will be in a backup role to 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov.
Lundqvist is one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, having spent his entire 15-year NHL career with the New York Rangers.
The Caps were praised for the move, including receiving an "A" grade from ESPN as they wrapped up the first day of free agency.
"GM Brian MacLellan said the team was looking for a veteran backup, and that's exactly what Lundqvist is at this stage in his career," ESPN's Emily Kaplan said in the article. "With next season's schedule in flux, Lundqvist could see more starts than a typical backup, especially with an expected good share of back-to-backs."
Considering the unprecedented offseason ahead of the NHL thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the Caps will be grateful to have such an established netminder to help out their young rising star.
Lundqvist also has experience in the postseason, which will help the Capitals immensely.
"His biggest value is in the playoffs," Kaplan said. "His 61 NHL playoff wins in the since 2007 years trail only Marc-Andre Fleury's 81. And Lundqvist gets better when the stakes are high. He is 6-2 in Game 7s, and he has never posted a save percentage lower than .917 in those games. Samsonov, meanwhile, has zero games of NHL playoff experience yet...As we saw in the 2020 playoffs, many teams are now believing they need two goalies to make it far, and the Caps now pack a great one-two punch with Lundqvist and Samsonov."
After relying so heavily on Holtby in the playoffs for so many years, it will be interesting to see how Peter Laviolette and the rest of the new coaching staff approaches a playoff series with two quality goalies on the roster.
ESPN notes that Lundqvist likely would have commanded more money or more years on a contract if there weren't so many available goalies this offseason, so the Caps were able to take advantage of the market and get a steal.
Ironically for the Caps, it comes in the form of a former playoff nemesis -- Lundqvist has beaten Washington in the playoffs three times, serving as their postseason "kryptonite."
The most important thing for Lundqvist is winning, and he has as good a chance to do so in Washington as he can find. As for the Caps, they're "getting a playoff warrior, a good locker room presence and a mentor to a 23-year-old potential future face of the franchise in net."
It's a perfect match, and comes at a fair price, so it's no wonder ESPN sees the deal as an all-around win for the Caps and their newest star.