On Friday, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist spoke to D.C. media for the first time since signing to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals earlier in the day. He expressed his gratitude to the New York Rangers, whom he spent 15 NHL seasons with, but also the upcoming journey and excitement with the Capitals.
Lundqvist said he did his homework on different scenarios and options and that the Capitals “checked every box”. He mentioned that a “chance to win” was the most important thing. Lundqvist loves “the way they [Capitals] operate.” The 38-year-old Swede is “excited and grateful” to join the team and has been skating recently to get ready for the “new challenge”.
This past spring and summer were “tough” for Lundqvist, who used the time to reflect and think about his future. He mentioned the Rangers’ final game in the Toronto bubble (August 4 after the qualifying round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes) was “emotional”. “If this is it, let’s enjoy it,” Lundqvist said about his mindset during the league’s return to play. Lundqvist added that he is “at peace” and “grateful” for more than a decade of wearing a Rangers sweater. He has not yet thought about that first game back at Madison Square Garden.
He voiced multiple times his gratitude and appreciation for his former team, and wishes them “all the best”. The Rangers bought out Lundqvist’s final year on his contract on September 30. Lundqvist noted it was “big” to say goodbye and it has been an “emotional week”, but exciting time. “I’m ready for the next step”.
Lundqvist said he has already talked with captain Alex Ovechkin and fellow Swedes Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin. “[They’re a] tight group…great group of guys”. He also mentioned the players’ experience attracted his interest in the Capitals. Lundqvist said he is “looking forward” to seeing them and getting to know the rest of the team.
The new goaltender said it’s “kind of crazy” being teammates with Ovechkin. “I have so much respect for him…He’s one of the toughest players to stop.” He already told the Russian captain that he would not do any one-timer drills with him in practice. “I’m looking forward to being on the same side now.”
On the importance of his role with the team and what that role will be, Lundqvist doesn’t know. “I’m just going to work as hard as I can…It’s up to the coaches…I embrace the whole thing.” He praised young Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov for having a great season. He wants to “help and support” Samsonov, but also “perform really well”, giving a chance for fans to see how hard-working and sharp he will be on the ice in addition to being a “good teammate”.
Lundqvist has talked with new Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette. “I have talked to him…got excited listening to him over the phone”. He said Laviolette is a “great motivator” and gets guys committed. Lundqvist has heard “all good things” about Laviolette and can’t wait to “learn his style even more.”
Lundqvist admitted there was always “excitement” playing in D.C even though he and the Rangers were the opposition for the night. He said Washington is a “beautiful city”. “I’m preparing for chapter two…it’s been a long chapter one in New York…forever grateful for that.”
On winning a Stanley Cup, Lundqvist said, “When you start a journey, you have to picture it first…I definitely see myself doing it”, adding, “I want to see myself lift that Cup and I want to do it in Washington.”
By Della Young
When you hear “save by Lundqvist” but feel happiness.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 9, 2020