- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 17, 2020

Henrik Lundqvist, the longtime New York Rangers goalkeeper who joined Washington this offseason, will not play for the Capitals this season due to a heart condition, he announced Thursday on Twitter.

The 38-year-old shot-stopper signed with Washington in October on a one-year, $1.5 million contract. In his statement Thursday, he said he has undergone “many weeks” of testing and has had conversations with heart specialists across the world. Those tests and conversations led Lundqvist to step away from the sport, at least for the time being.

“It’s been determined that a heart condition will prevent me from taking the ice,” Lundqvist said in his statement. “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.”

Lundqvist is a two-time All Star who won the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL’s top goalkeeper, in 2012. He broke into the league during the 2005-06 season, earning a place on the All-Rookie Team.

In his 887 career games, Lundqvist boasts a 91.8 save percentage — and that mark rises to 92.1 percent in his 130 playoff appearances. Lundqvist is the winningest goalkeeper in Rangers history, with 459.

After 15 seasons with the Rangers, Lundqvist signed with Washington in October, slated to be an important piece in replacing goalkeeper Braden Holtby, who departed as a free agent. He was expected to split time in goal with Ilya Samsonov, a highly rated but inexperienced netminder.

Now, the 23-year-old Samsonov appears to be the clear starting goalkeeper heading into the 2021 season, with 24-year-old Vitek Vanecek as his presumed backup. Pheonix Copley could also be in the mix to play goalkeeper; Vanecek and Copley both played 31 games for the Hershey Bears in 2019-20.

“The Washington Capitals are supportive of Henrik’s decision to step away from hockey at this time due to his heart condition,” the Capitals said 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.”

Lundqvist said he felt “inspired and committed to prepare myself for this upcoming season” for the two months since joining the Capitals. He had been doing daily skates and workouts to prepare, he said. Lundqvist said he’ll spend the next few weeks with his family before sharing what his next steps might be.

“It’s still very hard for me to process all of this and kind of shocking, to be honest,” Lundqvist said in a video released by the team. “But with the experts involved, I know this is the only way of action. I want to thank the entire Washington Capitals organization for giving me this opportunity and also for all the support they’ve shown throughout this challenging time.”

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