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Lundqvist won't play for Capitals this season because of heart condition

Goalie signed one-year contract Oct. 9 to share time with Samsonov after bought out by Rangers

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Henrik Lundqvist won't play for the Washington Capitals this season because of a heart condition.

"Today is a very tough and emotional day for me," the 38-year-old goalie said in a video on Twitter on Thursday. "For several weeks now, I have been undergoing different types of tests related to a heart condition. And after lots of discussions with doctors around the country and finally receiving the last results earlier this week, I unfortunately won't be able to join the team this year.

"I now need to continue the process to address and fix these issues."

Lundqvist signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Washington on Oct. 9 after he had the final season of his contract bought out by the New York Rangers on Sept. 30.

"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."

Tweet from @hlundqvist35: Some tough news I need to share with you all.. pic.twitter.com/y7ZtAoo39Q

Lundqvist said he was looking forward to getting an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup with the Capitals, who won it in 2018, after he was unable to in 15 seasons with the Rangers.

He visited the Washington area with his family in October to find a place to live and participated in an informal skate with some of his new teammates at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Nov. 23 before returning to New York.

"I can say for the past two months I've felt so inspired and committed to prepare myself for the upcoming season," Lundqvist said. "The daily skates, and workouts, and just the thought of playing [in D.C.] has really, really brought me lots of excitement. It's still very hard for me to process all of this and kind of shocking, to be honest. But with the experts involved, I know this is the only way of action."

Tweet from @Capitals: A message from Henrik: pic.twitter.com/JJDe2lKAXz

Selected by the Rangers in the seventh round (No. 205) of the 2000 NHL Draft, Lundqvist was 459-310-96 with a 2.43 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 64 shutouts in 887 games with New York.

"We have no doubt that Henrik Lundqvist will face this challenge with the same fierce determination and grace that made him one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game of hockey, and an inspiration to all of us," the Rangers said in a statement. "He and his family are in our thoughts during this difficult time. He will always be a part of the New York Rangers family."

Lundqvist is sixth in NHL history in wins, seventh in saves (23,509), eighth in games, ninth in starts (871), ninth in time on ice (51,816:19) and 16th in shutouts. He won the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL in 2011-12 and has been a finalist four other times (2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2012-13).

"While we are all saddened as hockey fans that we will not be able to watch Henrik tend goal for the Capitals this season, we are also thankful that he will be getting the necessary medical care to deal with his heart condition," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Henrik is a beloved player across the NHL and throughout his native Sweden and a wonderful ambassador for the game. We wish him and his family well."

Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said this month that Lundqvist would compete in training camp with 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov, who pushed Braden Holtby for playing time as a rookie last season, to be the No. 1 goalie. Holtby signed a two-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 9.

"Both of these guys will get a chance to play and I think from there, as always, you look at it and you sort things out," Laviolette said. "Certainly, I don't think that it's right to come out and say this guy is going to start or that guy is going to start. There's going to be a training camp.

"I feel fortunate that I've got two really good goaltenders: a veteran goaltender like Lundqvist, who's been through the wars and been through the battles and has experienced success, and then a really young, strong talent like Samsonov to come in and compete and try to grab the crease and make it his."

Samsonov was 16-6-2 with a 2.55 GAA, a .913 save percentage and one shutout last season, but he missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an upper-body injury he sustained while in Russia when the NHL season was paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Vitek Vanecek was Holtby's backup in Samsonov's absence, and the 24-year-old rookie is the likely candidate to be the Capitals' second goalie this season.

"We've got another great young goaltender in Vitek down in the minors that is a real strong candidate," Laviolette said. "So I'm excited to see him play as well. I feel like we're in good shape with goaltending."

The Capitals also have 28-year-old Pheonix Copley, who was Holtby's backup in 2018-19 but did not play in the NHL last season after losing the backup job to Samsonov in training camp.

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin wrote on Twitter, "100 percent health is most important Hank! My family wish the best for you and hope to see you soon!!!"

Washington owner Ted Leosnis wrote on Twitter, "Heartbreaking and emotional. I am only concerned and thinking about Henrik Lundqvist as a person and for his family's well-being. We pray for his good health. We and the entire NHL family support the 'King.' The video moved me to tears."

Lundqvist was 10-12-3 with a 3.16 GAA, a .905 save percentage and one shutout last season with the Rangers. But with the emergence of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, Lundqvist started four of New York's final 29 games and finished with the fewest games (30), starts (26) and wins of his NHL career.

"I want to thank the entire Capitals organization for not only giving me this opportunity, but also for their support throughout this challenging time," Lundqvist said. "I will take the next few weeks to be with my family and I'll be back to share the next steps."

Photo courtesy: Washington Capitals

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