A few weeks ago, general manager Brian McClellan and the Washington Capitals were faced with many questions and prospects when it came to their youthful tandem between the pipes at Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanessek.
Both netminders were coming off a difficult season which saw them unable to find continuity and occupy the starting job full-time, although both showed glimpses of greatness from time to time. Not only that, Samsonov and Vanessek were the RFA who needed new contracts.
So, going into free agency with many of the top names on the market, Washington had a lot of decisions to make. Both Samsonov and Venacek were with the organization from the start, rising through the ranks for their NHL spot.
In fact, 2015 first-round selection Samsonov was expected to become the team’s goalkeeper in the future. braden holtbytenure of Meanwhile, Venacek flourished as an AHL All-Star and showed the upside that would surely lead to success at the pro level.
However, neither was able to translate that success and potential into the NHL full-time. Samsonov struggled to find his rhythm and ended the season with a .896 save percentage. He will warm up for one or several games at a time. As it appeared he was at a critical juncture, he would struggle again and have problems with rebound control, puck tracking, holding his stick and surrendering soft targets.
And although Venacek finished with .908 SV% and had a strong stat line, he could not maintain that high level of play and struggled in various aspects of his game as well. It was the superior body of work that led Peter Laviolette to name Vanacek the starter for the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. However, Laviolette pulled Vneek after a disastrous Game 2, and the team ran with Samsonov for the rest of the series. However, he did not find continuity as the team fell Florida Panthers In six games, that included a slump in Game 5 and a season-ending OT loss in Game 6.
So when it came to addressing the goalkeeper position, McClellan made a major decision: He would not hold one or the other. He will send both of them out. GMBM had spoken with several teams and was both goalkeeping in the 2022 NHL Draft, and ultimately, the best deal came with Venacek, who was traded for draft picks (Ryan Chesley and Alexander Suzdalev).
Then, a few days later, Samsonov did not receive a qualifying offer and became the UFA.
“I was a little surprised about it,” Venacek admitted.
Washington had no goalscorer on the roster for the 2022 NHL Free Agency opening, as Phoenix Copley also moved to join the Los Angeles Kings organization. So, once in an afternoon, McLellan filled those vacancies fast.
He signed the top goalscorer and 2022 Stanley Cup champion darcy kumper to a five-year contract, and shortly thereafter St. Louis Blues goalkeeper and up-and-comer Charlie Lindgren was signed to a three-year deal. Kuemper’s deal has an AAV of $5.25 million, while Lindgren’s cost is $1.1 million per season. Combined, that tandem would cost $6.35 million per year, and marked the first time in a long time that the team did not start the season with at least one goalkeeper from the farm system on the roster.
“Once I knew Washington was interested, it was a place where I could really see myself fit and got really excited at that idea,” Kuemper said. “This is where I wanted to go among all the options.”
For Samsonov and Vanessek, they found new deals. Samsonov signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And, after filing for arbitration, Venacek and the Devils agreed to a three-year deal that has an AAV of $3.4 million. Combined, their salaries cost $5.2 million per year.
Given that gap and other factors, this was the best possible solution for the Washington Capitals and the last one that would pay off.
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Kumper’s .921 saving percentage is the first of all goalscorers over the past five seasons, having played at least 150 games since 2017-18. 6-5 Netminder also finished fifth in SV% (.921) and fourth in wins (37) and shutouts (5) this season. Lindgren, meanwhile, was one of the AHL’s top netminders last season, second in save percentage (.925), and at the NHL level, he went 5–0 with .928 SV% and 1.87 GAA. went further, indicating that he can maintain that level of the game. The 28-year-old also has years of playing experience in Montreal Canadiens’ system after an extraordinary career at St. Cloud State, Nick Dowd’s alma mater.
Compared to Samsonov and Vanessek, the team got a major upgrade—and for a much better price.
If Washington had chosen to keep one or the other, the arbitrage would have raised the price significantly. New deal with Alexander Georgiev Colorado Avalanche The same deal that set Kumper-to-DC in motion—set somewhat of a precedent for Netminders in need of expansion. And it’s possible that, if Samsonov went to mediation, he could get a deal that pays $3 million per season. For a backup or 1B option, that’s a very high price to pay. The same thing can be said for Vanessek, who secured a $3 million+ a year contract in New Jersey.
Given the costs, the Capitals are paying just $1.15 million more for a more robust, proven pair between the pipes that can bring stability and experience to the table. And, considering the expansion prospects, Washington would probably be paying the same price they were paying had they re-signed Samsonov and Vanessek, while also holding on to Copley.
To find a full-time starter, Washington did just that. Kuemper brings it to the table. He makes the saves he can, can keep up the strong parts of the game and has a Stanley Cup run under his belt. Even a 32-year-old can grow up with gloves on. Simply put, he knows how to win.
And as for Lindgren, he makes those big saves, rises to the occasion and makes the most of every game he can get in goal.
As the Washington Capitals try to get past the opening round for the first time since hosting the Cup in 2018, they now know they have consistency in goal, and it can make a world of a difference in addition to their many other upgrades. Is. this offseason.