Caps Officially Sign Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted October 9, 2020

(Caps Outsider)

In a move that went from unthinkable to a possibility to a near certainty, the Washington Capitals have officially signed longtime New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist after he was bought out last week.

The contract with Lundqvist is a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Lundqvist is likely looking for one more shot at a Stanley Cup before he retires.

“Henrik is one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, and we are pleased to have him join our organization,” said general manager Brian MacLellanΒ . “Henrik has the competitive drive and the ability to help our team compete for a championship. We feel he will be an excellent fit for our team and provide leadership to our organization and our young goaltenders.

Lundqvist, 38, likely has little tread left on his tires after making his NHL debut back in the 2005-2006 season, the same year as now teammate Alex Ovechkin. Lundqvist has amazed 887 games played since then, playing at least 50 games every year all but once, (excluding the lockout shortened 48 game season in 2012-13, in which he played 43 games) prior to this season. Lundqvist has played at least 60 games seven times.

While Lundqvist’s numbers the past two seasons, a 3.07 and 3.16 GAA along with a .907 and .905 respectively are the worst numbers of his career, a look under the hood shows those numbers are a little off.

Over the last two years, at five-on-five, Lundqvist has arguably had better years than Holtby who has struggled as well. He has a .920 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA, according to NaturalStatTrick while on the flip side, Braden Holtby has had a .916 save percentage and a 2.65 GAA. Also per NST, Lundqvist had a .838 high danger save percentage compared to Holtby’s .811, Holtby has a goals saved above average of -4.01 while Lundqvist has a 1.42 GSAA. When it comes to high danger chances, Lundqvist has saved about one goal (.83) above average while Holtby has allowed just over five (-5.03 GSAA). According to Evolving Hockey, Holtby has a 1.09 goals saved above expectation (GSAx) compared to 6.62 for Lundqvist.

Also according to Evolving Hockey, since 2014-15 when Holtby became the Caps regular starter, the two have similar numbers at five-on-five despite Holtby playing in 50 more games. The two are similar in save percentage, 92.46 for Holtby and 92.5 for Lundqvist, and GSAA 19.39 and and 18.54, but the one area that the two different is GSAx which again heavily favors Lundqvist 54.41 compared to 42.91 for Holtby, despite the former being seven years holder.

The Caps didn’t just sign Lundqvist for his on-ice results though. Lundqvist could also be a mentor to Ilya Samsonov and be a quality 1B goalie before the Samsonov fully takes the reins as the staring goalie, especially after he suffered an injury before the NHL’s return to play. In addition, the Caps will need a quality backup in what will likely be a truncated 2020-21 season.

While it may not appear like it, the addition of Lundqvist and the subtraction of Holtby may actually make the Capitals goaltending stronger.