As the news came down Thursday that Washington Capitals goalie Henrik Lundqvist would be missing the upcoming season due to a heart condition, the fallout was immediate. This is a tough situation for the netminder and his family, serving as yet another reminder that life is bigger than hockey. It also sticks yet another brick in the wall of what has been an awful year.
“It breaks my heart (literally) to share this news: I will not be joining the Capitals this upcoming season,” Lundqvist said in a personal statement on Thursday on social media. “After many weeks of tests and conversations with specialists around the country, it’s been determined that a heart condition will prevent me from taking the ice. Together, we have decided that the risk of playing before remedying my condition is too high, so I will spend the coming months figuring out the best course of action.”
Lundqvist had the final year of his contract bought out by the New York Rangers and signed with the Capitals in October, a sure change of scenery for a goalie synonymous with the Blueshirts.
Washington signed Lundqvist to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million and they’ll kick that over to the long-term injured reserve list.
But money isn’t everything and everyone’s disappointed by this news. The Capitals had an opportunity to experience the sixth goaltender on the all-time wins list, while Lundqvist had an opportunity to hoist the finest prize in sports.
“The Washington Capitals are supportive of Henrik’s decision to step away from hockey at this time due to his heart condition,” the Capitals said in a statement. “Our players’ health is of the utmost importance, and we stand behind Henrik’s decision. We want to wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”
23-year-old Ilya Samsonov was definitely looking forward to sitting under the proverbial learning tree. It’s hard to imagine a better situation for a young netminder. Samsonov posted a .913 save percentage in 26 games as a rookie last season, but injury kept him from joining the Capitals in the bubble.
So what now?
For Lundqvist, we wish him nothing but the best. His health is paramount and our thoughts are with him and his family at this time.
For the Caps, there are options within the organization. Pheonix Copley is 28-years-old with just 29 games of NHL experience, but the North Pole native might be the holiday gift Washington is looking for. Ditto Vitek Vanecek, who spent the last four years in the AHL and could back up Samsonov in the bigs.
There are some veteran goalies on the free agent market, of course, and the Capitals could fish around. Craig Anderson is available, as is Ryan Miller, so the club could pick up another vet to back up Samsonov and push the youngster to a sure pole position.