Just 48 hours before free agency, the Washington Capitals made a difficult decision to not qualify Ilya Samsonov, which led to the 25-year-old goaltender hitting the market and ultimately signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. So far, that move has worked out as he has found his footing with his new team — and even beat Washington in his Leafs debut — and on Saturday, he'll get the chance to advance to 2-0 against his former club.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters on Wednesday that Samsonov will start for Toronto against the Capitals on Saturday, which will mark the Russian's first time back in D.C. since Washington let him walk this offseason.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan elected to go for a goaltending overhaul in the summer amid questions regarding the team's future and closing Stanley Cup window, as well as two seasons of inconsistency for their young tandem in Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, who was traded to New Jersey at the 2022 NHL Draft.
"We ran out of time to wait," MacLellan said with regard to giving Samsonov and Vanecek a little longer to find their footing.
To replace Samsonov and Vanecek, Washington signed Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million contract to become the new No. 1 netminder, and the team also inked Charlie Lindgren to a three-year, $3.3 million deal to back up.
Since joining the Leafs, Samsonov has been excellent despite having to deal with an injury early in the year. He has back-to-back shutouts and through 11 games so far, is 9-2 with a .939 save percentage and 1.70 GAA.
Kuemper is currently day-to-day but has a .916 save percentage through 20 games. Lindgren has won his last five starts.