The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2.
But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.
With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for four weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.
The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today, we look at the Caps’ top prospect.
Does Ilya Samsonov need to get NHL time this season?
Yes. Have a great weekend everyone!
This should be fairly obvious, but just for kicks, let's dive a little deeper.
A lot has been written on the future of Braden Holtby after this season as he is on the final year of his contract with the Caps. Given what Sergei Bobrovsky and Andrei Vasilevskiy have set the goalie market at this summer, it is going to be hard for general manager Brian MacLellan to afford Holtby beyond this season.
But before you let your current starter and a Vezina and Stanley Cup-winning goalie walk, you better be sure you have a plan.
For several years, Samsonov has been considered Washington’s top prospect and the future of the team in net. Now with Holtby on the final year of his deal, the Caps cannot commit long-term to him if they believe Samsonov is their future starter. The problem is Samsonov has just one season of North American experience and no NHL games.
To let one of the greatest, if not the greatest goalie in franchise history walk to promote a goalie with no NHL experience is a huge gamble. The team has to get some sort of idea of what they have in Samsonov before fully committing to him.
Now granted, Samsonov's playing time will be limited. Pheonix Copley is the incumbent back-up so there is no guarantee he even starts in the NHL this season. If he does beat out Copley, it still might be more beneficial for him to get a lot of playing time in Hershey rather than scattered starts as a back-up in Washington. Because of that, we may be talking about only a handful of games for Samsonov over the course of the season.
But regardless of whether Samsonov gets five NHL appearances or 35, it's still something. It may not be as much as the team would want and it may not be enough to say with 100-percent certainty that Samsonov is ready to be a No. 1, but it will at least show the team how he plays against NHL competition.
Circumstances may very well dictate that the Caps need to move on from Holtby, but regardless of cost, it will make no sense to move on if the team has no plan in net for next season. You have to see what Samsonov can do, even if it is only a limited look.
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