One week after losing goalie Vitek Vanecek to Seattle in the expansion draft, the Capitals reacquired him in a trade on Wednesday in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. The draft pick is from Winnipeg which the Caps acquired in the Brenden Dillon trade.
The Caps entered free agency with little cap space, but in need of a backup goalie for Ilya Samsonov. As the day wore on and goalie after goalie signed elsewhere, it looked like there were few viable options left for Washington.
Seattle, however, made this move possible with the surprise signing of another former Caps goalie, Philipp Grubauer. With Grubauer and Chris Driedger signed, the Kraken suddenly had no room for Vanecek while the Caps still had a need for a cheap backup option. Just a few hours later, the deal was done.
The Caps elected to protect Samsonov over Vanecek in the expansion draft, as Samsonov has the higher ceiling, but in terms of a backup, Vanecek checks a lot of boxes. He played in 37 games in his rookie season in 2021 and managed a 21-10-4 record with a .908 save percentage and 2.69 GAA. Critically, Vanecek also has a cap hit of $716,667, which is lower than the current league minimum of $750,000. Washington literally could not have signed a goalie for cheaper than Vanecek.
With Vanecek back in the fold, the most critical item left on the team's offseason to-do list is to re-sign Samsonov who is a restricted free agent. The team issued him a qualifying offer on Monday, thus retaining his rights.