A summer of change might be in store for the Capitals.
After a first-round series loss to the Panthers, general manager Brian MacLellan said Sunday the team would explore possible changes to the roster as the offseason commences.
And as it stands now for the Capitals, their summer will start with the decision(s) to make in the net. The team’s two goaltenders (Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov) are set to be restricted free agents, and though there are more concerns with the roster than just who starts in goal, the offseason, in a financial sense, likely will start in net.
“We’ve lost in the first round the last four years,” MacLellan said at the team’s breakdown day. “We’re going to explore changes. I don’t think anything is off the table. We’re going to talk to different teams and monitor the trade market. We have to identify free agents. We’ve got to figure out a goalie situation. We’ve got two RFA guys, so we got to make a decision on what to do there and fit it in under the cap.”
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Samsonov, who made $2 million during the season, posted a save percentage of .896 with a goals-against average of 3.02. Both figures were the worst of his three-year NHL career.
Samsonov, though, has showcased a unique ability to make difficult saves and has shown flashes of the talent that made him a first-round pick. He entered the postseason in Game 3 and played for the duration of the series.
The issue with his play was that during the regular season, as with both he and Vanecek, was that it never truly settled into a consistent, No. 1 goaltender style of groove.
“I thought Sammy played well,” MacLellan said of the playoff goaltending. “Vitek played good in the first game. Sammy played pretty good. I don’t think that’s the reason we didn’t beat Florida. So it was positive for the guys. During the year it was probably in and out, which is expected for inexperienced goalies, I think.”
But with Vanecek (who posted his second-straight season with a .908 save percentage with just a $716,667 cap hit) and Samsonov needing new deals, the Capitals will likely have to make a choice of which one to keep.
MacLellan has mentioned exploring adding a veteran goaltender a few times in the last few months, which could come by way of a trade. If it does, one of Vanecek or Samsonov will be headed out the door.
“We’re going to explore,” MacLellan said. “I think there’s a couple of guys; I don’t know if it’s a deep free-agent market. We’ll talk to other teams and we’ll evaluate. They’ve both been pretty good but not great.”
Some of those names to explore might be Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick or the New York Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov, both of whom are entering the final year of their contracts.
Should the Capitals want to add a younger goalie, or one with a longer contract, the cost to add certainly wouldn’t be cheap both in a compensation sense and in a salary sense.
No matter what the Capitals do, and who they decide to keep, expect the offseason to be based around who the team’s two goalies will be to start the season.