- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
Henrik Lundqvist is signing a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Lundqvist’s 15-year run with the Rangers ended in September when the team bought out the final year of his contract. The 38-year-old became an unrestricted free agent in a crowded field of goaltenders. Lundqvist still has a desire to win a Stanley Cup, which has eluded him so far in his career, and signing with one of the Rangers’ Metropolitan Division rivals allows him to stay on the East Coast with his wife and two daughters.
Lundqvist has a lengthy history playing against the Capitals; he has faced them in five playoff series in his career — winning three of the series.
The Capitals are parting ways with longtime goaltender Braden Holtby in free agency, turning to 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov as the primary starter for next season. With next year’s schedule in flux, but expected to be condensed with plenty of back-to-backs, Ludnqvist could get more starts than a typical backup.
“I still love to compete. I still love the game and I still want to WIN,” Lundqvist tweeted four days after the Rangers buyout was announced.
Lundqvist signing with the Capitals was first reported by TSN.
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan telegraphed the signing during a conference call with reporters after this week’s draft. When asked specifically about Lundqvist, MacLellan said: “We’re looking for a backup veteran goaltender. He’s a really solid candidate for us.”
Lundqvist carried an $8.5 million salary-cap hit with the Rangers and was scheduled to make $4.5 million with a $1 million signing bonus on the final year of a seven-year, $59.5 million contract he signed in December 2013. That contract carried a full no-movement clause, so a buyout was the most expedient way of moving on from Lundqvist.
The Rangers went with three goaltenders during the 2019-20 season, as Lundqvist shared time with Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin, both 24 years old. Georgiev played 34 games, Lundqvist played 30, and Shesterkin, a rookie sensation, went 10-2 in 12 contests.
Lundqvist has been the face of the franchise — and one of the most popular athletes in New York City — for over a decade. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2000 by the team and made the jump from Sweden to the NHL in 2005-06.
He has a record of 459-310-96 in 887 games, with a save percentage of .918, a 2.43 goals-against average and 64 shutouts. He is the franchise leader in all those categories.
Lundqvist is a five-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy, winning the award for the NHL’s top goaltender in 2011-12.
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