With the Seattle Kraken laying in wait, the Washington Capitals had to ponder several decisions in regards to their protected list. The team not only faced choices in regards to pieces like T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov at forward but also had to evaluate the state of the blue line and their situation in net.
Ultimately, it appeared likely they’d lose a top-4 defenseman or solid netminder in Vitek Vanecek. That appears to remain the case as they submitted their final protected list Saturday. Here’s who made the cut.
Washington Capitals’ Protected List
Goaltender: Ilya Samsonov
Washington Capitals Left Exposed
To start, let’s address Alex Ovechkin. The captain was left exposed, but as explained, this would be a wasted pick for Seattle. He’s a UFA and wants to finish his career in D.C., so even if the Kraken takes him, he can just return to the market and re-sign with Washington. This, of course, could explain why the Capitals have been waiting to extend him; they were able to get more flexibility with the expansion draft.
However, the Capitals’ biggest decision came at the blue line. Top-pairing d-men Carlson and Orlov were locks for two of the three spots, but instead of protecting another top-4 defenseman, they decided to keep van Riemsdyk safe from the Kraken. He only played in 20 games, but did make a strong impression and excelled in several areas. This leaves second-pairing blueliners Justin Schultz and Brenden Dillon (both of who make $3.5 million-plus a season), as well as Nick Jensen, exposed to Seattle and gives them quite the arsenal of puck-movers and physical defenders to choose from. Michal Kempny is available, but he may not be the Kraken’s first choice following injury struggles. RFAs Lucas Johansen and UFAs Cameron Schilling, Paul LaDue and Zdeno Chara are also free for the taking.
Then, in net, Washington faced a tough choice in regards to exposing Vitek Vanecek, but in reality, it was perhaps the only choice. MacLellan expressed faith and trust in Samsonov as the franchise’s future No. 1, and although Vanecek proved his worth as a full-time NHL goalie in an unexpected rookie campaign, the Capitals are sticking with Sammy. Hershey netminders Pheonix Copley and Zach Fucale are also available, as is UFA Craig Anderson.