Capitals

How likely are the Caps to lose Vanecek to the Kraken?

Capitals
Vitek Vanecek

Each NHL team could only protect one goalie from the Seattle expansion draft and, not surprisingly, the Capitals chose Ilya Samsonov. It was the right choice as he has the higher ceiling than teammate Vitek Vanecek, but now the team must face the reality that it could potentially lose Vanecek.

But just how likely a possibility is that?

By rule, Seattle must take 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. That leaves wiggle room for four extra players.

Four years ago in the Vegas expansion draft, it was expected that Vegas would load up on goalies. Those are great trade chips, right? Why not pick up several starters and trade them to teams in need of a goalie? That didn't happen. Instead, the Golden Knights picked the minimum of three goalies and selected four extra defensemen.

Seattle general manager Ron Francis' philosophy is believed to be building from the blue line so we may see a similar strategy. Even if that is overstated, the fact that there is a flat salary cap makes it hard for me to believe we will see the Kraken take more than three goalies. As important as that position may be, goalies can be hard players to trade and the current climate of the NHL makes these kinds of trades even harder now.

Something else most people got wrong four years ago was with the Caps' netminder specifically, Philipp Grubauer. It was widely assumed that he would be Vegas' pick from Washington, but instead, the Golden Knights surprised everyone and selected defenseman Nate Schmidt.

 

Vegas essentially passed on a budding No. 1 goalie in favor of loading up on defensemen. To compare, here is a look at Vanecek's stats against Grubauer's stats at the time of the Vegas expansion draft.

Vitek Vanecek: 25 years old, 37 GP, 21-10-4, .908 save percentage, 2.69 GAA, 2 shutouts

Philipp Grubauer: 26 years old, 66 GP, 28-21-8, .923 save percentage, 2.25 GAA, 3 shutouts

There was no question at the time that Grubauer would be a No. 1 in the NHL, but the jury is still out on Vanecek. At the very least, Grubauer's credentials were more established and Vegas still chose to pass on him in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury, Calvin Pickard and J.F. Berube.

But just how Francis may see and evaluate Vanecek is one of the more intriguing questions of the expansion draft when it comes to the Caps.

Here are some of the notable goalies left exposed to Seattle: Ben Bishop, Mikko Koskinen, Jonathan Quick, Carey Price, Matt Murray and Braden Holtby.

Antti Raanta, Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask, Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Mike Smith, Chris Driedger and Frederik Andersen are other big names who will be free agents. It is expected that Seattle will finalize a deal with Driedger making him its pick from the Florida Panthers.

The bottom line is if Seattle wants goalies who can start right away, they've got plenty they can choose from. In terms of overall talent and ability, you have to go pretty far down the list before you get Vanecek. But the two big questions are what does Francis see Vanecek's potential to be and what exactly is he looking to get from his three goalies?

Seattle could pick two starters and that would make complete sense in this day and age where tandems seem to be more the norm than the exception. But it doesn't make sense to take three. The Kraken are not going to take, for example, Driedger, Price and Bishop unless they already have a trade in place for one of them. What would make more sense is if they decided to target a younger, cheaper goalie with that third pick who they could develop into a starter.

Could Vanecek be that player?

Vanecek is not going to get picked to be Seattle's starter and he's probably not going to get picked to be the No. 2, considering the players available. But the No. 3? That's a distinct possibility.

One other factor to keep in mind is money. While Vegas was open for business in terms of trades and taking contracts off the books for other teams, Seattle seems much more hesitant to do that. The rumor is that the asking price by Francis for such moves has been extremely high. With a cap hit of just $716,667, Vanecek is a very cheap option.

So how likely is Vanecek to be taken? We just don't know because we don't know what Francis is thinking and, as we learned four years ago, we shouldn't assume anything. If Francis wants to bolster the blue line, Brenden Dillon, Justin Schultz and Nick Jensen are all there for the choosing. But really, just what Francis sees in Vanecek, what his priorities are for the three goalies he selects and just how much the cap hit matters to Francis will dictate just how enticing a target Vanecek ultimately is.