The free-agent frenzy began at 12 p.m. on Wednesday and goalies were the hot commodity in the early hours. Brian Elliott, Petr Mrazek, Jaroslav Halak, James Reimer, Laurent Brossoit, Martin Jones, Frederik Andersen, and even Braden Holtby were among the goalies who signed new deals, but none of them signed with the Capitals.
After losing Vitek Vanecek to Seattle in the expansion draft, backup goalie was a clear area of need for Washington heading into free agency, but now just a few hours in it appears the pickings are pretty slim.
So who will replace Vanecek and join Ilya Samsonov in the Caps' goalie tandem next year? Could it actually be... Vitek Vanecek?
The remaining free-agent options such as Devan Dubnyk do not inspire much confidence and a bidding war would quickly price the Caps out of contention. With limited cap space, the Caps need a goalie with a cheap cap hit who can be at least dependable in a high number of games.
Sound like anyone you know?
But how would this be even possible? Washington could not protect Vanecek in the expansion draft so why would Seattle be interested in handing him back?
Well, there's another former Caps goalie to thank for that.
Seattle signed Chris Driedger as its starter on the day of the expansion draft, setting Vanecek up to be the backup in the Kraken's inaugural season. On Wednesday, however, Seattle signed free agent Philipp Grubauer to a six-year deal. That leaves Seattle with two high-quality goalie options for next season and no clear role for Vanecek.
After playing in 37 NHL games last season with a .908 save percentage and 2.69 GAA, Vanecek has graduated past the point where it would make sense to stick him in the AHL. He is now an asset the Kraken no longer need or even have a use for. That means he now has become most valuable to them as a trade asset.
This is where the fact that so many other teams already signed their backups on Wednesday helps Washington. The Grubauer signing was unexpected so it's not as if teams were out there waiting to see what Seattle would do with Vanecek. The Kraken also don't need him. So is there really any trade market out there for Vanecek beyond Washington?
Based on how Seattle GM Ron Francis approached the expansion draft and how high of a price he demanded from possible trades, it may not be cheap to pull off a deal to bring Vanecek back to Washington.
But it should not be impossible. The Kraken need to move him, the Caps need him because he's the best option out there for their goalie need. It's a deal that makes too much sense for both sides.