“I don’t think he will make the team, but obviously it’s great to see him out there and try to do what he can,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin joked after his longtime friend suited up in goalie gear and faced shots for several minutes at the end of practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. “I think he had fun and he realized how hard it is to be a goalie.”
Zimmerman, who wore a GoPro on his goalie helmet, said that he had discussed the idea of spending time between the pipes with Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom a few years ago. Zimmerman told Backstrom he figured he could hold his own with his catching glove, even if he had no clue what to do with his stick or blocker. Indeed, Zimmerman made a few impressive glove saves, prompting stick taps and cheers from Ovechkin and the other Capitals players gathered at center ice, but he hardly reacted when Backstrom skated in and unleashed a slap shot to his stick side.
“Not that I needed respect for goalies, because obviously they’re crazy to begin with,” Zimmerman said. “I’ll never understand how they do it, but a newfound respect for those guys. I have no chance when they start deking and moving around. Skates aren’t my strong suit.”
Capitals Coach Todd Reirden liked what he saw from Zimmerman, even if he doesn’t figure to challenge Braden Holtby or Ilya Samsonov for playing time.
“He looked pretty good in there,” Reirden said. “Good glove, for sure. Big guy, took up a lot of room. The guys weren’t letting up on him. He was seeing some serious gas from some of the guys.
“Once he really ramped it up, I had no chance,” Zimmerman said of Ovechkin, who ripped a few one-timers into the back of the net.
Zimmerman called Wednesday’s experience a “cool opportunity” and extended an invitation for the Capitals to come to Nationals Park and stand in the batter’s box against Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg sometime.
“That would be the equivalent of how terrified I was to be out there,” Zimmerman said. “That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been, for any sport.”
As for the status of his contract negotiations with the Nationals, who declined his $18 million option for the 2020 season after the World Series, Zimmerman joked that he’s a “hockey free agent, too.” At Nationals Winterfest on Saturday, Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo said he spent 90 minutes chatting with Zimmerman in his office the previous week but that he had no news to report about a new deal with the team’s original draft pick.
“I’m not worried,” Zimmerman, who has played all 15 years of his career in Washington, said Wednesday. “We’ve talked. We’re continuing to talk. Like I said, I’ve made my intentions pretty clear, and they know where I stand. We know where they stand. We’ve been going back and forth the last couple of weeks. I’m sure something will happen. It’s just a matter of time. We’ve got a month, anyway. Nothing going on. Take our time.”
Samantha Pell contributed to this report.
Read more from The Post: