The Washington Capitals bid adieu to Vitek Vanecek as the Seattle Kraken selected the 25-year-old in the 2021 expansion draft. Now, the attention shifts to what’s next on the offseason to-do list.
Right now, Washington still has a lot of business to take care of over the summer. Not only do they need to re-sign captain Alex Ovechkin, but they need to address RFAs Ilya Samsonov and Lucas Johansen. Michael Raffl, Zdeno Chara, Paul LaDue and Cameron Schilling are also pending UFAs, but it’s unclear if they’ll return to the Capitals.
But, before all of that, they need to address their cap situation. By exposing Justin Schultz and Brenden Dillon, the Capitals had the opportunity to clear a significant amount of salary of at least $3.9 million. Instead, losing Vanecek to Seattle only cleared $716,667 in cap space for Washington. That leaves the Capitals with a total of $9,735,407 to spend this offseason — and that’s not nearly enough.
As I mentioned, Ovechkin still has plenty left in him as he chases down Wayne Gretzky‘s all-time goals record. He’s shown tremendous consistency and durability over time and shows no signs of slowing down. Taking that into consideration, he deserves a similar salary that he got with his first blockbuster deal, if not more. Unless he takes a discount, that should be the next contract.
READ MORE ON WHN: Seattle Kraken select Vanecek from Washington Capitals
Then, there’s Samsonov. With Vanecek’s departure, the starting position is the 24-year-old’s to lose. It’s unclear what his next deal would look like, especially after a season where he missed time being on the COVID-19 list twice. Not only that, but the team now needs another goalie to take on the No. 2 role or even compete for a No. 1 spot. They could also stick with Pheonix Copley in net, but he’s signed for one more year and also makes up one half of the strong tandem in Hershey.
So, what’s next?
The trade market is probably the biggest — if not only — solution. By dumping salary, Washington can make space to re-up their current players and pick up more pieces in free agency. With Trevor van Riemsdyk earning the final protected spot, there appears to be more trust in him to take on more responsibility in 2021-22. Additionally, Martin Fehervary will likely make the NHL jump next season, and Michal Kempny appears poised for a return. That opens the opportunity for a trade on the blue line.
There’s also the question of Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capitals could certainly clear significant space if they elect to part ways with him, but that would also mean not expecting a high-paid big name like Vladimir Tarasenko in return.
In the end, there are plenty of options to consider; it all boils down to who goes.