If the price was right, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan was prepared to make a big splash at the NHL draft on Friday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
Instead, MacLellan and the Caps only made a ripple, selecting Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov with the 22nd overall pick of the first round.
Samsonov, 18, becomes the first goaltender taken by the Capitals in the first round since Semyon Varlamov was taken 23rd overall in 2006.
He joins a crop of goaltenders that includes Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek, who was taken by the Caps with the 39th overall selection of last year’s draft.
At 6-foot-3, 201 pounds, Samsonov was rated the No. 1 goalie out of Europe by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau.
Playing under former NHL coach Mike Keenan with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL, Samsonov impressed scouts with an 11-4-1 record with a 2.66 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
There was some speculation the Caps would draft a defenseman in the first round for the first time since taking John Carlson 27th overall in 2008. But MacLellan said the Caps would stand firm on their philosophy of taking the best player available and they were the first NHL team to select a goalie.
MacLellan went into the draft hoping to land a top-line right wing, but cautioned he would not overpay for one. With four more picks on Saturday – one each in Rounds 3, 4, 5 and 6 – MacLellan may look to add a pick or two when the draft resumes at 10 a.m.
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins stole the show in Sunrise, unloading burly winger and Stanley Cup champion Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings and promising defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames.
In exchange the Bruins received Calgary’s 15th, 45th and 52nd picks and Los Angeles’ 15th pick.
“Those two calls today were very difficult to make,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said, referring to the trade calls to Lucic, who had one year and $6 million remaining on his contract, and Hamilton, a 22-year-old restricted free agent. “Both players are tremendous players and will have tremendous careers in Calgary and L.A. I think the world of them as people.”
The Capitals could have an interest in a handful of veteran right wings who could play alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. That group could include Patrick Sharp, Radim Vrbata, T.J. Oshie or Justin Williams.