The Capitals officially entered themselves into the goalie market with a Friday morning trade sending Vitek Vanecek to the Devils for two draft choices.
They were always in the market for a veteran goalie, but now, they've put themselves in a position without Vanecek where a move has to be made.
“I jumped into the fire,” general manager Brian MacLellan said to reporters in Montreal with a laugh. “Probably not the smartest thing, right?”
NHL Draft week brought about a lot of movement in the goalie market, and thus created more, and less, options for the Capitals to consider.
Vanecek was moved to New Jersey, but other options like Ville Husso (Detroit), Alexandar Georgiev (Colorado) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Minnesota) either were traded to new destinations or re-signed with their respective clubs.
That has closed the market on a few names, but has opened it a bit on Darcy Kuemper and Cam Talbot, amongst others.
“We've been trying to change our goaltending up a little bit,” MacLellan told reporters. “This is the first step in doing that. We've still got some work to do to fill out our goaltending duo and some further decisions to make as we go forward here.”
The Capitals still have goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s rights, as he’s a restricted free agent. But if the Capitals want a new tandem in net next season, they’ve got the option to do so.
With free agency opening next Wednesday, the Capitals will have until July 11 to tender a qualifying offer to Samsonov. Should they do so, they’d force another team to pay draft compensation if they want to acquire him.
The option to keep Samsonov and add another netminder is obviously in play as well, as the 2015 first-round selection has flashed at times, but has struggled with consistency from game to game.
In addition to the musical chairs that is the NHL goaltending market at the moment, the Capitals have to take into consideration the health of Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin. Meaning, the Capitals could be out $17 million-plus of the Opening Night lineup due to injuries.
With Backstrom attempting to return during the '22-23 season, that’s $9.2 million the Capitals have to allocate to their cap in anticipation of his return. Or, they could spend more, and know that they might have to make cap-cutting moves in-season if Backstrom is healthy.
Now, the Capitals will have to navigate the expensive goaltender market.