Capitals sign Henrik Lundqvist to one-year, $1.5M deal

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Henrik Lundqvist is leaving the Big Apple for the Capitol.

Lundqvist signed a one-year, $1.5M contract with the Capitals on the opening day of NHL Free agency. The move comes a little over a week after the goaltender saw his 15-year tenure with the Rangers come to an end via a buyout.

“Henrik is one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, and we are pleased to have him join our organization,” said Capitals GM Brian MacLellan. “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.

The 38-year-old Lundqvist will serve as the backup for 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov, who will be entering his second NHL season. Longtime starter Braden Holtby will be moving on after 10 seasons in D.C. Change was needed given the Capitals’ cap situation and Lundqvist’s affordability as he seeks his first Stanley Cup.

This partnership can work because Lundqvist no longer needs to be the No. 1. He lost the starting job to Igor Shesterkin last season and it was clear the Rangers were ready to move on. He’ll get a good number of starts with the Capitals while also providing mentorship to the young Samsonov. He’ll also be on a team that is still in “win now” mode — however long that remains — and hired Peter Laviolette to help them get another Cup.

“For me at this point – [after] 15 years in New York – it’s a big decision for me,” Lundqvist told the Capitals website. “There’s a lot of things you put into consideration when you try to pick a spot. And I just felt that Washington checked every box that was important to me, and obviously it starts with a winning team. At this point in my career, I want to go somewhere where it’s a good chance. I just want to have another opportunity to be part of that, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

MacLellan said this week that Lundqvist was “a really solid candidate.” In a crowded goalie market, he pounced early and got his preferred choice.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.