The Capitals made a significant decision regarding its goalie tandem for the season and placed Pheonix Copley on waivers Wednesday. The move leaves Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov as the team’s two netminders heading into the season.
With all teams required to become cap compliant by Tuesday, several players were placed on waivers Monday. The Caps waited until Wednesday to make the move, likely in the hopes that other NHL teams have their rosters set and will not have room to add an additional goalie. He is expected to be reassigned to Hershey in the AHL if he clears.
With Copley on waivers, Samsonov now enters the season as the backup. Samsonov is the highly touted goalie prospect who is expected to be the team’s future in net, but who has not yet played in an NHL game in his career. Copley, meanwhile, was the team’s backup last season and won 16 games.
More than anything else, a backup needs to be able to win in the limited starts he gets. Copley was able to do that. Now Washington is turning the reins over to a 22-year-old rookie with no NHL experience.
Why? There are two main reasons.
First, the team is hard up against the salary cap. Copley has a cap hit of $1.1 million while Samsonov carries a hit of $925,000. That is not a significant margin, but it reflects just how dire the team’s cap situation is. An extra $175,000 makes a huge difference for the team.
The second reason is that Holtby is in the final year of his contract and there is uncertainty regarding his future. Considering Sergei Bobrovsky received a contract worth $10 million per season, if Holtby commands anything close to that when he hits free agency, there is no way the Caps can afford him without making other significant moves to the roster.
As noted, Samsonov is the team’s future in net. The Caps need to know what they have in him now so they can plan for what to do next season if and when Holtby departs in free agency.
It likely won’t take long to get our first look at Samsonov considering the Caps play a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday. With the home opener coming on Saturday, Samsonov is expected to make his NHL debut on Friday.
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