WASHINGTON, D.C. – About ten weeks after the Washington Capitals landed the most coveted free agent goaltender on the market outside of their former starter Braden Holtby, it was revealed that Henrik Lundqvist will have to step away from the game of hockey due to a heart condition. Lundqvist revealed the news via a video posted by the Caps on Twitter and other social media, announcing that he will not join the team for the coming season. This leaves a void on the team between the pipes that the club will have to address quickly.
A message from Henrik: pic.twitter.com/JJDe2lKAXz
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 17, 2020
The news is very shocking, as Lundqvist had been posting clips of his on-ice workouts in the time following his signing, sporting Capitals colors, and was very eager to join only the second NHL club to employ his services. Although the Capitals do still have Ilya Samsonov, the one-year Hershey Bear and future starter, the Caps were looking for a veteran goaltender to share the increased workload and help mentor the highest goalie draft pick of the team since Olie Kolzig. This leaves the team seeking a fit either from within the organization or externally through free agency.
Among available options for the Caps still without a team for next season are Cory Schneider, Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson, and Ryan Miller, who all fit the category of NHL veterans who could help mentor Samsonov. All four are age 34 or older, like Lundqvist, and would be seeking chances at a Stanley Cup that may be among their last. The Capitals have a great stable of goaltenders in Hershey, with Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley among the best tandems in the AHL during the 2019-20 season, and the Caps added Zach Fucale to that group over the summer and sent him to South Carolina as their season got underway on December 11. Should the Capitals elect to fill the gap internally, they’d be doing so without a goalie experienced at the NHL level.
The Capitals will likely look to fill that void in a hurry, as the NHL appears to be coming down the homestretch in deciding how the 2021 season will take shape. It seems more likely that the Capitals will be addressing their need with a veteran goaltender from free agency, but should the decision impact the Bears, the team has more than enough depth to counter. The Bears got to see one of their AHL signings in goal, decorated college goaltender Hunter Shepard, make his ECHL debut with the South Carolina Stingrays last week, stopping 26 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to Greenville. With the season likely to be heavy with back-to-back contests and more in a condensed season, having two great goaltenders is a must for NHL teams, and expect the Caps to address it soon.
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