With a flat salary cap, some expiring contracts and the Seattle expansion draft, this is going to be a busy offseason for the Capitals. To get you ready, Capitals writers Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan are breaking down the biggest offseason questions with their thoughts.
Today's question: Will the Caps look to add a goalie?
Andrew: The first inclination is to say yes here, but I think it’s more complicated than that.
The Capitals have two young goaltenders and as they showed last year, they’re not opposed to going after a veteran to make things a bit easier on a young netminder like Ilya Samsonov. But now, I don’t think that makes sense.
Samsonov, who still needs to be extended a contract as a restricted free agent, posted a save percentage of .911 during the season, which was up-and-down for him since the beginning. His counterpart, Vitek Vanecek, was a .918 goalie as he helped carry the load for most of the season.
But, from March 1 to the end of the regular season, Samsonov was a .918 goalie. With the Capitals’ salary cap situation being so tight and with two young netminders where it’d be hard to improve upon at such little salary, I believe they stand pat.
Pheonix Copley and Zach Fucale will hold down the fort for the Hershey Bears, and I think that’s a group of four the Capitals feel OK with entering the 2021-22 season. Should they decide to add a goalie, I don’t think it will be in a full-time NHL role.
Now, all of this can go away if Samsonov or Vanecek leaves by way of free agency or the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, at which point I would fully expect a veteran presence to come into Washington. But for now, I think they’re going to stick with both young goalies as long as they can.
JJ: Goaltending was a question mark heading into 2021. After a season in which Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek both played well but neither cemented themselves as the No. 1, shouldn't we expect the Caps to make some sort of move in net in the offseason?
No, no we shouldn't.
Regardless of what you thought of the team's goaltending last season, it really did not affect them all that much in the regular season where Washington finished tied with Pittsburgh in points for the top spot in the division. At the very least, they know they can get by in the regular season with a Samsonov, Vanecek tandem and they even have Pheonix Copley and Zach Fucale in Hershey. That's good enough...for now.
If the Caps do want to make an addition, it makes more sense to wait and look to do it during the season with banked cap space. The fact is, the salary cap situation right now is pretty dire and what Samsonov and Vanecek provide is about as cheap a goalie tandem as you can hope to have, even with Samsonov getting a new contract. Adding a veteran will mean adding more cap space and pushing either Samsonov or Vanecek (probably Vanecek) out of the lineup.
Unless Vanecek is taken in the expansion draft or a goalie is included in some sort of trade package that Brian MacLellan cooks up in the offseason, I don't see any reason why the Caps would want to make a move right away. Stick with the young goalies, let them continue to develop, then re-evaluate when you have more cap flexibility within the season.