Dec 28: Lundqvist announced on Twitter that he will undergo open-heart surgery to try and fix his health issues. The procedure will include an aortic valve, aortic root, and ascending aortic replacement.
Dec 17: The Washington Capitals’ big offseason acquisition won’t actually get to play for them this season. Henrik Lundqvist announced in an emotional tweet that he will not be able to suit up for the Capitals due to a heart condition. The full letter to fans:
It breaks my heart (literally) to share this news: I will not be joining the Capitals this upcoming season. After many weeks of tests and conversations with specialists around the country, it’s been determined that a heart condition will prevent me from taking the ice. 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.
For the past two months I’ve been so inspired by the opportunity to play in DC and committed to my game, spending every day at the rink to prepare for the upcoming season. The news was very difficult to process but after the last test result earlier this week we knew there was only one way to go from here.
I want to thank the entire Capitals organization for not only giving me this opportunity but also for their support throughout this challenging time. I will take the next few weeks to be with my family and I’ll be back to share the next steps.
This is such disappointing news for one of the great players of the last generation. Lundqvist, who will turn 39 in March, sits sixth on the all-time wins list with 459, every one of them recorded with the New York Rangers. That era came to an end when the veteran goaltender signed a one-year, $1.5MM contract with the Capitals in October to replace Braden Holtby as the new backup for phenom Ilya Samsonov.
Often considered among the greatest players to never win the Stanley Cup, Lundqvist finished at least sixth in Vezina Trophy voting in each of his first ten seasons, winning the award in 2012 when he posted a .930 save percentage in 62 games. While he hasn’t actually won the thing, Lundqvist’s playoff performances have been among legend, with a .921 through 130 postseason appearances. In Sweden, perhaps he is even better known for his international exploits, which include Olympic and World Championship gold and silver medals.
For those wondering how this affects the Capitals salary cap situation, the team’s best course of action would likely be to place Lundqvist on unconditional waivers and terminate the deal. Though 35-plus contracts usually count regardless of what happens, that is only in the case of multi-year agreements, which Lundqvist was obviously not. If his contract is terminated, it will come off the books completely.
Regardless, the focus now should be on Lundqvist’s health and future. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of the King on an NHL ice surface.