The loss of Henrik Lundqvist for the season has thrown the Capitals for a loop and now the team is left with a hole in the lineup between the pipes just weeks before the start of the season. Even so, general manager Brian MacLellan isn't worried because he has faith in the goalies already in the organization to back up starter Ilya Samsonov, specifically Vitek Vanecek.
"We want to see Vanecek play," MacLellan said on a Zoom conference Wednesday. "We're happy with his progress, we're happy with his experience. The only thing for us is that he hasn't played much in the NHL. Had a good showing in the bubble in the chance he got in so I think all along we've been hopefully trying to get him some games and he hasn't gotten them and this should be a good opportunity for him to get some games to see where he's at."
Vanecek, who will turn 25 in January, has yet to make his NHL debut, but he became the likely candidate to step into the No. 2 role after beating out Pheonix Copley for the job in the 2020 postseason. Vanecek played one period of an exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes in the bubble, but was not called upon in the playoffs in relief of Braden Holtby.
Vanecek has spent the last four seasons with the Hershey Bears where his game has significantly improved. He was named an AHL all-star in each of the past two seasons and managed a .917 save percentage and 2.26 GAA in 2019-20. He also carries a cap hit of only $716,667 which is important for a Capitals team tight against the salary cap.
Should the team peg Vanecek as the No. 2, however, that would give Washington an incredibly inexperienced duo. Samsonov and Vanecek have a combined 26 games of NHL experience, all of them by Samsonov.
While Maclellan said he is open to signing a veteran goalie, he also made clear he was comfortable with the team's goalie depth.
"I think Copley is a good option there for us," MacLellan said. "As a No. 2, I thought he did a good job for us. Vanecek's played well. We like our three. We got [Zach] Fucale as four. But I think it's evolving. We'll do our due diligence on the guys who are out there. And if we see somebody that fits, that has experience, that's willing to accept a certain role, we're open to adding a guy, too. We're open-minded, but we also like where we're at."