“I want to see myself lift that Cup, and I want to do it in Washington,” Lundqvist said during a video conference call with reporters Friday. “I definitely [can] see myself do it; that will be my motivation. I’m going into training every day [to] prepare for camp. Whenever camp starts, that will be on my mind. Obviously that will be the ultimate story.”
Lundqvist, a five-time all-star, has played his entire NHL career with the Rangers and is 459-310-96 with a 2.43 goals against average and a .918 save percentage in 887 games. He is the franchise’s career leader in wins, save percentage and shutouts. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 2012 and was a finalist four other times.
In 11 of his 15 seasons, the Rangers made the playoffs. They reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2014, losing to the Los Angeles Kings.
After opting not to attempt to re-sign unrestricted free agent Braden Holtby, who landed a two-year, $8.6 million contract with Vancouver on Friday, Washington was in the market for a veteran backup to work in tandem with Ilya Samsonov, 23, who is coming off an impressive rookie season. But Lundqvist offers more than that, and Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan declined to make a clear delineation between starter and backup.
“I see it as we’ve got a good young goalie and we’ve got a great experienced goalie,” MacLellan said. “… I would expect [Lundqvist] to come in and compete as hard as he can, and the coaches will make the decision based on how guys are playing and us winning games and what’s been best for our team.”
The Capitals also signed defenseman Justin Schultz to a two-year, $8 million deal.
Schultz, a right-handed defenseman, could be paired with Dmitry Orlov or Brenden Dillon, the latter of whom re-signed Tuesday on a four-year deal worth $3.9 million annually. Schultz, 30, had three goals and nine assists in 46 games last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom he twice won the Stanley Cup. The 6-foot-2, 193-pounder’s ability to join the rush appealed to the Capitals, who will be entering their first season under Coach Peter Laviolette.
Unrestricted free agent Radko Gudas, 30, who appeared in 63 games with the Capitals last season, signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Florida Panthers. Late Friday afternoon, MacLellan said the Capitals were still “exploring a couple things,” and he wasn’t certain whether the team would sign another player.
Lundqvist was owed $5.5 million on the final year of a $59.5 million deal with the Rangers, who are moving on to young netminders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
Lundqvist could become an important mentor to Samsonov, who has no playoff experience after suffering an undisclosed injury while the NHL season was shut down during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Samsonov did not travel with the team to Toronto for the postseason, instead staying in Washington to undergo treatment. MacLellan said Friday that Samsonov was “close to” 100 percent, and the team is optimistic he will be healthy for the start of the season.
“I’m going to come in and work as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help this team,” Lundqvist said. “Hopefully they can see how much I’m going to put in to try and do that, how much work. I think Washington is like New York: You have to earn it by hard work and good attitude and being a good teammate. That is going to be my mind-set. We’re going to see when the fans are back, how they react. Who knows?”
Speculation about Lundqvist’s move to Washington began after the buyout was announced last week. He made it known he did not want to retire but rather wanted the chance to compete on a Stanley Cup-worthy team.
“This thought process has been going on for a couple months,” Lundqvist said. “Just see yourself play elsewhere and understand what that means for me as a player. As we got closer, I started to get more and more excited about the different options. It became crystal clear to me what was the right thing for me, and that was Washington.”
Lundqvist has talked to multiple Washington players and Laviolette. He said he has chatted with captain Alex Ovechkin and fellow Swedes Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin. He said Ovechkin has been “fun to go up against” over the years and joked that he told Ovechkin he wouldn’t be doing any one-timer drills with him in practice.
“His shot is just way too hard,” he said, “so I already took myself out of that one.”
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