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Vanecek Opens Up About Trade, Was ‘Surprised’ By Capitals Goalie Overhaul



Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek

Former Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek wears a wide smile as he reflects on perhaps the craziest 24 hours of his life, which unfolded just over a week ago.

It was a summer Friday afternoon, nice weather back home in the Czech Republic, as he and his then soon-to-be wife were setting up and getting ready for their Saturday wedding. As they were getting everything prepared, he got a call from Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, telling him he had been traded to the New Jersey Devils.

“It was really hard, you know?” Vanecek said. “I was trying to set up the wedding and figure out everything for the wedding… [my wife] understand it, so I didn’t do anything for the wedding and has to do everything by self. So she did it. The wedding was great and the trade, too. I am really happy for that.”

Washington had acquired draft picks in exchange for the 26-year-old netminder, a deal that was the “first step” in changing up their goaltending, as Brian MacLellan said.

Vanecek had suspected that there would be some kind of change-up in the net, especially after the way the last two years had gone for the team with him and Ilya Samsonov making up the club’s young tandem. However, he wasn’t sure of what that change would be.

“Honestly I was thinking about, they want to try to change something because two years and then we lost in the playoffs in the first round. So I was a little bit thinking who will get out of the team. I thought one will stay in the Washington and then one will go somewhere else,” he admitted. “But they make a change, you know? They trade me and they not give qualifying contract for Samsonov. So I was a little bit surprised about that but, yeah.”

READ MORE ON WHN: Strome Opens Up About End Of Tenure In Chicago, New Start With Capitals

After everything unfolded, Samsonov called Vanecek, and the two discussed what was next and the road ahead following their time in Washington. It hadn’t been the easiest road for them, as neither Vanecek nor Samsonov could find consistency or establish himself as a full-time No. 1.

“I was talking with him. I was really good friend with him of the three years in the Hershey and then two years in the NHL. So I’m really good friend with him so we talk a little bit after,” Vanecek noted.

The Czech netminder first came into the NHL back in 2020-21, as he replaced Henrik Lundqvist as the Capitals second goalie when the Swede was forced to retire amid a heart condition. He posted a decent body of work, registering a .908 save percentage in back-to-back seasons.

Now that he has two years under his belt, Vanecek believes that he is still on the rise and will do whatever he can to prove he’s a full-time starter in this league as he joins the Devils.

“I feel very comfortable. Two years, it’s a lot of experience,” Vanecek said. “Washington gave me chance. First year, I did everything what I can. Second year, same thing… feel really comfortable.”

RELATED: MacLellan Shares Why Capitals Went For Full Overhaul In Net

Now, the two have new opportunities. Vanecek avoided arbitration on Tuesday and signed a three-year extension with New Jersey. His new deal carries an AAV of $3.4 million. Samsonov, meanwhile, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Vanecek plans to arrive in NJ at the end of August. He will stop in Washington first to cancel his apartment and move his furniture and car. Then, when the season starts, he will form a 1A/1B tandem with Mackenzie Blackwood and, just as he did with Samsonov, compete for the No. 1 gig.

“I have the same thing in Washington, it’s a battle every single game,” Vanecek said. “It’s a little bit of pressure on us because you have to play every game a good game. I feel like it’s good. We are in the same position.”

Ultimately, Vanecek is ready to capitalize on his opportunity, and that doesn’t mean just getting the No. 1 job. It means earning it while also capturing that consistency he couldn’t quite find with the Capitals.

“Every single game, you have to give the team the best. Show the coaches or GM, you have to show your best. And then who will be better, that guy will play No. 1,” Vanecek said.

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