The Capitals re-signed goalie Ilya Samsonov to a one-year, $2 million deal as announced Monday, solidifying the team's goalie tandem for next season but providing little clarity on the team's future in net.
A first-round draft pick in 2015, Samsonov, 24, has long been hailed as Washington's future starter. He went 13-4-1 with a .902 save percentage and 2.69 GAA in a largely inconsistent 2021 season. He returned in the Stanley Cup playoffs and played very well showing he remains the team's top option in the crease for now, but the implication of a one-year deal for a 24-year-old budding starter is clear: it is time to deliver.
Samsonov was not available for the 2020 postseason due to an injury he suffered in an ATV accident during the break between the NHL's COVID-19 pause and its resumption in the bubble that summer.
In 2021, Samsonov was found to be in violation of league health and safety protocols that resulted in him and three of his teammates being placed on the NHL's COVID-19 absence list. He then tested positive for COVID and missed more than a month. Later in the season, Samsonov and center Evgeny Kuznetsov were benched for a game for being late to a team function and both landed again on the COVID list.
Samsonov's deal comes the same day the Philadelphia Flyers signed 22-year-old goalie Carter Hart to a three-year deal with a cap hit of over $3.9 million and the New York Rangers signed 25-year-old goalie Igor Shesterkin to a four-year contract. Though the financial terms have not been officially disclosed, Frank Seravalli reports Shesterkin will have a cap hit of $5.65 million.
The Caps did not have the cap room to offer Samsonov large deals like the ones Hart or Shesterkin got so this new contract allows both sides to renegotiate next year. But regardless of whether Samsonov's one-year deal is a product of the salary cap or a reflection of his off-ice struggles, this sets up a massive "prove it" year for the young netminder. He needs to deliver both on and off the ice if he hopes to cash in on his next deal and be paid like a starter. Otherwise, his future in Washington will come into question.
Samsonov's new contract leaves the Caps with just over $1.4 million of cap space. That would be enough to add rookie defenseman Martin Fehervary's $791,667 cap hit for next season if he makes the NHL roster as expected.