The Capitals will enter the 2021 season with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek as the two goalies on the roster, Peter Laviolette confirmed Monday.
Samsonov, 23, was always expected to be the No. 1 heading into the season. The question was who would be the backup and it appears Vanecek, who turned 25 on Saturday, has won the job for now.
"We feel like they're good, young prospects," Laviolette said. "They had a good camp and so we're going to give them an opportunity."
With Samsonov and Vanecek together, the Caps will have a goalie tandem with a combined 26 games of NHL experience, all of which are from Samsonov as Vanecek has yet to make his NHL debut. He could make that debut as early as Friday as the Capitals have back-to-back games to start the season in Buffalo on Thursday and Friday.
Laviolette dismissed the duo's inexperience by saying it was time to see what the young players can do.
"At some point, you've got to take a look at your young players and I know that goaltending and the position is an important position so we're going to try to do a good job and play well defensively in front of them," Laviolette said.
He added, "These are two young goalies that need an opportunity. We've got to see where they're at and put them in game situations and let them fight for the crease, let them fight to be the guy that gets the start."
Laviolette also stressed the team's depth at the position will help the young netminders in case they do struggle.
Veteran goalie Craig Anderson was brought into camp on a professional tryout agreement. Laviolette said of him that he is "going to be a part of it" in regards to the team, suggesting a contract is coming and that he will be the team's required third goalie and will be placed on the taxi squad. Pheonix Copley was placed on waivers Monday and is expected to be reassigned to Hershey, but he served as the backup to Braden Holtby in 2018-19.
"I think goaltenders, you're going to see it this year just how valuable they are, not just the two that are on the ice, but the depth of the organization so we feel like we're in good shape with regard to that," Laviolette said.
In addition to the veterans, Laviolette also stressed the importance of playing better team defense in front of the goalies in order to help Samsonov and Vanecek.
Defense was a major weakness for the Caps last season and the blue line was essentially reconstructed in the offseason with the additions of Justin Schultz, Zdeno Chara and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
"It's a deep, experienced group," Laviolette said of the team's defense. "I feel like they can help a young goaltender by how we play the game defensively."