By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A serious heart issue will force Washington Capitals goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to opt out of the 2021 season (and professional hockey as a whole indefinitely), the 38-year-old netminder announced in a video message to Caps fans Thursday.
Lundqvist also wrote a post discussing the decision on his Twitter.
“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,” the five-time All-Star wrote. “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.
“The news was very difficult to process but after the last test result earlier this week we knew there was only one way to go from here.”
The unfortunate news comes just two months after Lundqvist, who spent the first 15 years of his NHL career with the New York Rangers, signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with Washington.
“The Washington Capitals are supportive of Henrik’s decision to step away from hockey at this time due to his heart condition,” the Capitals wrote 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.”
But the issue doe leave the Capitals, who parted with 2016 Vezina Trophy and 2018 Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby this offseason, down a netminder, with Ilya Samsonov and his 26 games of NHL experience currently standing as the Caps’ lone goaltender on the roster. A first-round pick of the Capitals back in 2015, Samsonov, who was expected to split duties with Lundqvist this season, posted a 16-6-2 record and .913 save percentage in 2019-20.
Fortunately for the Caps, some potential veteran replacement options still remain on the open market, including Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, Ryan Miller, and Cory Schneider. Of that group, Miller had the best 2019-20, with nine wins and a .907 save percentage in 19 starts for Anaheim. Anderson, however, played the most games, appearing in 34 games for the Senators and miraculously putting up a .902 save percentage along the way. (Yeah, it’s not a particularly loaded group.)
And in case you’re wondering, these goalies have gone a combined 3-9-3 with an .898 save percentage against the Bruins over the last three seasons, and with Howard accounting for all three of those victories.
No matter who the Capitals bring in, this is a potentially major swing for the upcoming season, especially as it relates the Bruins-Capitals rivalry, with the foes expected to skate in the same division in a 52-to-56 game 2021 season.
If the NHL moves ahead with a division-only format, you’re talking about the potential of as many as eight head-to-heads with the Capitals. With the Bruin-killing Holtby in Vancouver, and with Lundqvist out of the picture, the Caps’ staggering advantage over the Bruins brings these teams closer to even, at least in terms of the Bruins being able to match them goal-for-goal.
The Bruins, of course, have dropped all but five of their 24 head-to-heads with the Caps since 2013.
The NHL is still aiming for a mid-January start to their season.