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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: MacLellan signs a No. 3 goalie

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: MacLellan signs a No. 3 goalie

The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign.

The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.

Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.

Today's move: Signing Joe Cannata as the No. 3 goalie

The Caps made a number of minor league moves in the offseason and while I won't go into each and every one of them, the signing of Joe Cannata deserves some discussion considering he will be the guy the team calls up in case of injury to Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer.

What do you get the guy who has everything? That's how the offseason felt a bit for the Capitals who had very few offseason needs. With the departure of goalies Justin Peters and Dan Ellis, however, the Caps found themselves in serious need of a No. 3 goalie.

First, an explanation. When many fans heard the team was looking for a goalie, their reaction was why? They have Holtby, Grubauer and 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov, right? Problem solved.

Not so much.


Samsonov is under contract with the KHL for the next two years. Should the Caps find themselves in need of a goalie this year, Samsonov would not be available to them. Even if he was, a 19-year-old with no NHL experience would not be their first choice. As for their other prospects, Adam Carlson will head to ECHL South Carolina this year while Vitek Vanecek will get the bump from the ECHL to AHL Hershey. That still leaves one opening in the AHL.

Enter Joe Cannata.

What exactly does a team look for in a third goalie? Someone who would be comfortable spending the entire season in the AHL, but who can be called up to the NHL on a short-term basis. Someone who can sit on the bench and enter an NHL game in relief if the need arises. If Holtby suffers a minor tweak and is out for two weeks, for example, then Cannata will be called up to serve as Grubauer's back up.

What we are not talking about is someone who can replace Holtby or Grubauer in case of long-term injury. At that point, the Caps would almost certainly bring in someone via trade. Goalies capable of playing in the NHL long term don't sign deals to play in the AHL.

Cannata, 26, has 88 games of AHL experience, including 40 games last season in Utica, where he went 20-13-6 with two shutouts, a 2.52 goals-against average (GAA) and a .909 save percentage.

"He'll be the third goalie, work with Vanecek in the American League," general manager Brian MacLellan said at development camp. "[Goalie coach Mitch Korn] and [associate goalie coach Scott Murray] will try and develop both those guys to get to the next level."

Last year, the Caps went with experience by signing Ellis, a veteran journeyman goalie with over 200 games of NHL experience. He did well over the course of the season with a 2.38 GAA and .908 save percentage, but he ran out of gas in the playoffs, getting torched in his only two games with a 4.80 GAA and .843 save percentage.

Cannata, on the other hand, has no NHL experience. Clearly, the Caps have decided to go younger with a goalie tandem of Cannata and Vanecek.

At 26, there's certainly higher upside to Cannata than there was for Ellis. He continues to improve his game and could ultimately develop into a solid AHL starter or even an NHL backup, but I have to wonder at this point just how much confidence Barry Trotz would have in him if he needed to call him up in October or November.

Grade: B

If everything goes according to plan, this will be the last Caps fans think about Cannata this season. Holtby and Grubauer will again be the Caps' top two netminders and Cannata will spend the entire year in the AHL where he has shown he can be successful. What we are talking about here is a goalie who can be successful in Hershey and who the Caps would be comfortable comfortable with for a short-term call up. Cannata checks that first box, but otherwise seems like a curious choice.

With no NHL experience, it's hard to imagine Trotz having that much faith in him. Granted, it doesn't take much experience to sit on the bench, but there are plenty of free agents available with some NHL experience that perhaps would have been a better fit. I'm not a scout and I can't tell you what they see in Cannata, but clearly they saw something that told them it was worth the risk.

Cannata's upside is a plus, but I'm not sure Hershey is better off this year with Cannata and Vanecek than last year with Peters and Ellis and I'm not sure just how much faith Trotz will have in Cannata even in the short-term.


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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal


Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”


Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.


For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Brett Connolly - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Chandler Stephenson - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Michal Kempny

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.