To prepare for Year 1 with the Washington Capitals, Charlie Lindgren went back to school.
In late August, the 28-year-old guard returned to his alma mater St. Cloud State University to train. He took to the ice at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center to skate with Ryan Pohling and Will Borgen, plus other alumni who made it to the pros.
Lindgren’s outstanding play at St. Cloud State eventually led him to make the jump to professional hockey. The undrafted free agent signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in March 2016 after an impressive junior season with the Huskies, where he went 30-9-1 with a save percentage of 0.925 and an average of 2.13. That same year, he was also the National College Hockey Conference Goaltender of the Year and a first-team All-American.
In his three years in the NCAA, Lindgren went 51-29-3 with a .921 SV% and 2.21 GAA. He also broke school records.
The 2022-23 campaign will mark Lindgren’s first full season at the NHL level. Still, he’s experienced and has played in 29 NHL games, with an SV% of 0.913 and an average of 2.74. However, 2021-22 marked a turning point for the 6-foot-2, 179-pound guard, as he went 5-0-0 with a 0.958 SV% and 1.22 average while he was with the St. Louis Blues and also ranked second among all AHL goaltenders with a .925 SV % for the Springfield Thunderbirds.
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There was a lot of buzz around Lindgren when he hit free agency, and ultimately general manager Brian MacLellan opted to take a calculated risk and ink Lindgren to a $3.3 million contract on three years. He will back new starter Darcy Kuemper, who signed a five-year, $26.25 million deal to open free agency.
“A really great person, a good team guy, also had good numbers,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of No. 79. “Definitely a new look in net for us. And we’re really excited about it.
Kuemper and Lindgren replace Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. None of Washington’s guards could find consistency or establish themselves as the rightful starter. And after two years and four straight first-round starts, MacLellan and the Capitals opted to move on and completely overhaul their goalie while bringing in older names.
“I think we’re going to be more stable now with the tandem we have, and that was our goal,” MacLellan said. “We wanted to change our goalkeeper and we did. I feel good with the two guys we had and I can’t wait to start the season with both in goal.