Whether Henrik Lundqvist knew it or not, he was in need of a fresh start where he would not be weighed down by history, where he would not face repeated questions regarding his state of mind and whether he would waive his no-move clause and was still committed to being a part of the Broadway rebuild. Where he wouldn’t be defined by his age.
He will have that fresh start beginning Friday when, all hands confirm, he will sign as a free agent with the Capitals in a decision that checks important boxes for the King. (Will they call him Mr. President in D.C.? Uh, no). He will play for a legit Stanley Cup contender and he will be in close proximity to his family in New York.
Lundqvist will know what is expected of him. The 38-year-old will have a defined role as the backup to 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov, who ascends to the No. 1 job upon the departure of Cup-winning, free-agent Braden Holtby. If he goes three straight without starting, Lundqvist won’t face an inquisition and neither will his coach, Peter Laviolette.
He will be able to be himself without constantly being reminded of who and what he was and had been for so long. Remember, the Rangers made the decision to say so long to No. 30, and they essentially made it during the winter when they demoted him to third-string behind Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
So it’s all good for Lundqvist, whose rivalry with Alex Ovechkin will move to the practice rink in Arlington, Va., from the high-stakes stage on which it flourished while the King and his Court eliminated the Caps from the playoffs in 2012, 2013 and 2015, each time in seven games, and over which the Great 8 scored a sum of seven goals.
If fans are allowed in the building — if the Rangers are allowed in the building — when the Caps come to the Garden, it’ll be “Eddie … Eddie … Eddie,” and Nov. 2, 1975 all over again. It will be Legend Lundqvist as Legend Giacomin, except not two days after shockingly being waived and claimed by the Red Wings.
The spectacle, the emotional chants that brought Giacomin to tears, created one of the most memorable nights in New York sports history. If this encore performance is not exactly like that, it will be because there will have been months, rather than 48 hours, to process it all.
Intellectually, it’s all good. The divorce was amicable. The parties have found and fallen in love with new partners. Life goes on. Lundqvist has a shot to win. Get ready for a year’s worth of comparisons to Raymond Bourque.
But take a moment. Picture Lundqvist in a Caps jersey celebrating with Ovechkin after knocking out the Rangers in Round 1. Picture him yukking it up with Tom Wilson.
Tell me how happy you are for Lundqvist now.
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