It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.
Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.
Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.
Justin Cade writes: It seems like the general consensus between the pipes for 2020-21 is that Braden Holtby walks and a proven backup comes in to help Ilya Samsonov settle in as an NHL #1. How do you see the future of the goaltender position in Washington beyond next season? If Samsonov proves to be a reliable starter, do the Caps call up Vanecek to back him up for years to come?
The Caps’ goalie pipeline currently consists of Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek in Hershey and Mitchell Gibson who is playing college hockey at Harvard. I am not really sure what to make of Gibson yet. He was OK, but not great in the USHL, but was really good in his freshman year at Harvard. I don’t know what the potential is there yet.
As for Copley and Vanecek, I see the ceiling for both as being NHL backups, at least in the traditional sense. As the NHL goes more and more toward tandems, that complicates things. I think Copley is a traditional backup, but I don’t want a situation where he is playing 30+ games per year. I think Vanecek has the higher ceiling, but I don’t see him as an NHL starter so I think there could be potential for a Samsonov-Vanecek tandem in the future with Samsonov being the primary starter. But I don’t know if that’s how the Caps see it.
If the team does indeed go the experienced backup route for next season, just how long that backup is signed for could be an indication for what Brian MacLellan views Vanecek’s future with the franchise will be. A three-year deal for an established No. 2 probably means Vanecek will be playing somewhere else before too long.
Scott Egbert writes: Would Alex Ovechkin retire soon?
Ovechkin has given no indication that he is going to retire soon or that he is even fading as he currently sits tied with David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals with 48. Could he be a Barry Sanders and walk away while still being one of the best in the game? I really don’t see it. I think his love for the game of hockey and fierce competitiveness will drive him to continue on. He may not want to talk about it, but he has laid the groundwork for a possible run at Wayne Gretzky's goal record. It is going to be really hard for him to walk away from that.
When Nicklas Backstrom discussed his five-year extension, he mentioned that Ovechkin was asking him all the time about it. I don’t think that was because he wanted to make sure Backstrom was around just next season. I think he was looking down the road.
No, I do not see Ovechkin retiring any time soon. Then again, he is 34 so we are definitely on the back-end of his career so it is fair to wonder just how many more years he has left.
Justin Cade writes: Which Caps player do you think is most likely to be lost to Seattle in the expansion draft?
Assuming that Washington elects the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, my best guess would be we see the Caps protect Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller and Jakub Vrana. Notice that is only six forwards. I don’t really see any other forwards they would really need to protect. They may have the flexibility to protect T.J. Oshie if they wanted, but he will be 34 years old at that point and still have an additional four years left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million. He is a marketable player that I think Seattle could have some interest in, especially given his ties to the area, but only if his production hasn’t fallen off a cliff by that point.
On defense, the situation is a bit hazier.
First, per my understanding, neither Alex Alexeyev nor Martin Fehervary will be eligible to be selected so Washington won’t need to protect either of them. John Carlson absolutely will be protected, but the two players after him are a question mark. If it were me, I would protect Jonas Siegenthaler and I ultimately believe that is what they will do. Then it is a choice between Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny.
I think Orlov is a very good, top-four puck-moving defenseman who is frequently underrated by fans who just point to his turnovers and see nothing else. To me, he is worth protecting. That seems like an easy call now with how much Kempny has struggled this year, but this becomes much more difficult if Kempny returns to form.
So to summarize, I believe the two most likely players to be taken will be either Oshie or Kempny.
Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.
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