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Former Capitals Goalie, RFA Vanecek Elects Salary Arbitration With Devils

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Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek

The Washington Capitals will see one of their former young netminders go to salary arbitration, as restricted free agent Vanecek elected to do so with the New Jersey Devils.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Capitals had two restricted free agent netminders on the roster in Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. Washington ultimately elected to change up their goaltending situation and spend on two experienced netminders rather than holding on to both. They ultimately ended up trading Vanecek to New Jersey for picks right before the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft. The team also didn’t qualify Samsonov and allowed him to hit the market, where he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“We’ve been trying to change our goaltending up a little bit,” MacLellan said of the team’s decision to trade Vanecek. “This is the first step in doing that. We’ve still got some work to do to fill out our goaltending duo, and some further decisions to make as we go forward here.”

When asked why he dealt the 26-year-old instead of Samsonov, MacLellan said he didn’t prioritize either. Instead, he relied on “supply and demand.”

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Vanecek is coming off a decent season with Washington, where he went 20-12-6 with a .908 save percentage and 2.67 GAA through 42 games. New Jersey desperately needed goaltending and expects him to form a 1A/1B tandem with Mackenzie Blackwood in 2022-23.

The Czech netminder now has two years of NHL experience under his belt following his All-Star play at the AHL level. Vanecek was going to spend another year with the AHL’s Hershey Bears back in 2020-21 but joined the big club with Henrik Lundqvist forced to retire due to a heart condition. He posted the same .908 SV% in his rookie year and came in clutch for the Capitals time and time again. He stood tall in goal and stole games with Samsonov fighting COVID and dealing with other issues throughout the year.

Over the course of this season, both Vanecek and Samsonov suffered major bouts of inconsistency. However, Vanecek was able to post the better body of work” and had the better stat line. Also, his strong stretches of play appeared to last longer than his Russian counterpart.

It is unclear what the Devils offered Vanecek or what salary he’s looking for. But he is one of 24 total players to elect for arbitration. The deadline to file was Sunday at 5 p.m., and the deadline for club-elected salary arbitration notification is Monday at 5 p.m. Arbitration hearings will be held from July 27 to Aug. 11.

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