Vitek Vanecek is in for a major payday.
The New Jersey Devils announced that former Washington Capitals goaltender signed a three-year, $10.2 million contract on Tuesday. His new contract brings his average annual value up to $3.4 million, up sharply from the roughly $716,000 he made per year in Washington over the last three seasons.
Washington dealt the netminder to the Devils on July 8 in exchange for a second-round pick swap and a third-round pick in this year’s NHL entry draft. The Capitals used the two picks they acquired in the Vanecek deal to snag defenseman Ryan Chesley (No. 37 overall) and forward Alexander Suzdalev (No. 70 overall).
Vanecek, 26, played 79 total games with the Capitals, putting up a 2.68 goals against average and .908 save percentage with six career shutouts. He joins a Devils squad where he’ll likely perform backup duties to 25-year-old MacKenzie Blackwood. Jonathan Bernier led the team with a 3.06 GAA last season and will also be in the fray to overtake a starting goaltending role.
Vanecek split time in net with Ilya Samsonov last season in Washington. Neither could establish themselves as the No. 1 option in D.C.
Capitals’ general manager commented just last week about the goalie conundrum last season, saying, “I guess it's a little frustrating that I wish one of them would have taken over the No. 1 spot. And it seemed like one or the other were going to, but then they never quite did it and I think we ran out of time to wait for it.”
In the wake of the Vanecek and Samsonov departures, the Caps found themselves with nary a starting netminder on the roster. They quickly plugged that hole by reeling in a rather large fish: Darcy Kuemper, fresh off a Stanley Cup championship with the Colorado Avalanche. Kuemper will start in net for Washington to begin the campaign and will be backed up by another free agent signing, Charlie Lindgren.