The Washington Capitals have checked off another box on their offseason to-do list, re-signing goaltender Ilya Samsonov to a one-year deal worth $2 million.
Samsonov was a restricted free agent and eligible for arbitration, but he chose not to file. General manager Brian MacLellan had expected a bridge deal for the 24-year-old. With the new contract, the Capitals now have around $668,740 left in cap space.
The Russian netminder was expected to be the team’s No. 1 goalie in 2020-21, but he missed time at the start of the season after testing positive for COVID-19. As a result, he lost the starting job to Vitek Vanecek. Though he got some playing time in his return and had strong moments, he landed on the COVID list again and was scratched for “disciplinary reasons” down the stretch.
In 19 games last season, Samsonov went 13-4-1 with a .902 save percentage and 2.69 GAA. He returned for three postseason games and showed flashes of strong play, but ultimately dropped all three starts with a 2.99 GAA and .899 SV%. Through 45 career NHL games, he has a 29-10-3 record, .908 save percentage and 2.61 GAA.
READ MORE ON WHN: Ilya Samsonov Still Has Plenty To Prove With Capitals
Heading into 2021-22, Samsonov again finds himself competing with Vitek Vanecek for the No. 1 job after the goaltender’s re-acquisition following his selection in the Seattle expansion draft. This time, the stakes are higher: this season will be one that will define the next step of his career. He has the season to prove his worth as a starter before he becomes a RFA in 2022, along with Vanecek.
MacLellan and the team has expressed confidence in their young tandem, and he mentioned that he’s excited for Samsonov to try and prove himself as a capable starter. Now, it’s up to him to take that opportunity and run with it.
“He has to earn it, too. I think that’s up to him,” MacLellan said of Samsonov’s role next year. “He has the potential to be a No. 1, and I think he has to show it.”