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Between Two Posts: Latest On Capitals Goaltending Situation & Plan

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Capitals goalies Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek

The Washington Capitals will be busy over the next couple of weeks, as the team has a hefty to-do list and a lot of questions to answer. Perhaps the biggest is what the team will do in goal, and general manager Brian MacLellan has a plan.

Going into next season, there’s no question that the Capitals need a No. 1 netminder. The young tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek hasn’t worked out according to plan, as neither goaltender has been able to maintain consistency and take the reins as the true No. 1.

There are many different routes Washington could take for a goaltender. The Capitals could pursue one of the big names, like Darcy Kuemper, Ville Husso or Jack Campbell, that will hit free agency on July 13, or they could take the trade route, where John Gibson, Sergei Bobrovsky and other names could be up for grabs.

However, the job doesn’t stop there. Both Samsonov and Vanecek are restricted free agents in need of new contracts. And, unless MacLellan wants to run with three goalies, which seems unlikely given both have had years of NHL experience now and likely won’t want to be scratched, one will have to go.

For now, MacLellan said he plans to issue qualifying offers to both young netminders.

“We’re talking… we’ll go through the RFA process. We’ll explore all opportunities as we would with any other position on the team, and make decisions as we go here,” MacLellan said.

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Those offers will be among the deciding factors in what Washington does next. Heading into the offseason, it appeared there may be quite a bit of space to work with, especially with the LTIR and questions surrounding Nicklas Backstrom‘s status following hip replacement surgery. However, MacLellan said that they will treat the salary cap as they usually do and still a factor in No. 19, who intends to play one way or another in 2022-23.

So, when it comes to cost, that likely will factor into whether Samsonov or Vanecek is back in D.C. to open next season, along with upside and overall body of work, among other things.

“We’ll explore trade opportunities there. We’ll look at the free agent market and then we’ll analyze the RFA contracts that are coming for both of them. Make a decision based on all that stuff,” MacLellan said.
Vanecek is coming off a deal that paid him $716,667 this past season. Samsonov, meanwhile, just finished up a one-year bridge deal that paid $2 million. Both split 39 starts last season, with Vanecek finishing with a .908 save percentage that impressed more than Samsonov’s .896. Samsonov did redeem himself somewhat in the playoffs after relieving a struggling Vanecek in Game 2, finishing with a .912 SV%. However, there were still inconsistencies over the course of the series.
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