The Washington Capitals still face questions between the pipes, but they could have a solution in Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist inked a one-year, $1.5 million deal with Washington in the 2020 offseason after the Rangers bought out the rest of his contract. He’d be able to provide stability in net and mentor sophomore Ilya Samsonov. However, that situation never got to play out, as heart complications sidelined Lundqvist for the entirety of the season.
While he did aim to make a return, the Swedish netminder wanted to be 100 percent healthy and did not join the team for the end of the regular season or the playoffs. Lundqvist is ineligible for the expansion draft and is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek did what they could to carry the Capitals, bailing them out time and time again. However, neither netminder necessarily stole the starting spot and struggled with inconsistency. With that, as well as the pending expansion draft in mind, Washington may consider having another veteran in net.
And if “the King” is healthy, and chooses to return to NHL play this season, it should be him.
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First off, the Capitals are a team that thrives on leadership. Having a player like Lundqvist brings another Zdeno Chara-like voice to the room. It will also work wonders for young goalies like Samsonov and Vanecek, who are quick learners and can take a lot away from a player like that. While Craig Anderson didn’t get a lot of playing time, making just a couple of cameos, he was able to play the role of an unsung hero while also leading by example.
His numbers are also solid. Over 887 career games, he’s 459-310-96 with a 2.43 GAA and .918 save percentage. His last year with New York didn’t go as planned, as he went 26-10-12 with a 3.16 GAA and .905 SV%. Still, the 39-year-old netminder’s still got it and has shown that in training. Plus, he’ll have time to transition back and adjust if he splits the duties in net.
If the five-time Vezina finalist does want to come back, Washington could also sign him to a one-year deal similar, if not equal, to the one he signed last season. That way, it’d a low-risk, low-reward deal for the Capitals.
Three can be a crowd in any crease, but this may be the logical move for the Caps going forward. As seen from 2020-21, more depth is never a bad thing, especially when it comes to goaltending. Samsonov and Vanecek still have to lay the foundations for their careers, and having another answer between the pipes will work wonders. If it’s Lundqvist who gets that call, all the better.