Ilya Samsonov did not receive a qualifying offer from the Capitals

The Washington Capitals on Monday did not extend a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Ilya Samsonov. That means the goalie will be an unrestricted free agent at noon Wednesday, when NHL free agency opens.

Samsonov seemed to be in line to be the Capitals’ backup after Vitek Vanecek was traded to New Jersey at the draft last week. Now the Capitals have no goaltenders on their NHL roster and will need to find two before the next season starts.

Samsonov could still re-sign with the Capitals, but the team would push for him to do so at a lower salary. He made $2 million this past season. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, Samsonov may have seen his 2022-23 salary jump into the range of $3 million to $3.5 million had the Capitals tendered a qualifying offer. That was more than Washington wanted to spend on Samsonov to be the backup.

Capitals trade goalie Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey for draft picks

The 25-year-old Russian, a first-round pick in 2015, posted a subpar 3.02 goals against average and .896 save percentage last season. His numbers improved slightly in the postseason, but the Capitals fell to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in six games.

Zach Fucale, who appeared in four games with the Capitals last season but spent most of the year with Hershey of the American Hockey League, is now the only goalie under contract with Washington who has played in an NHL game.

General Manager Brian MacLellan said last week that the Capitals planned to give Samsonov a qualifying offer. Instead, MacLellan will be in the market for two goalies. The Capitals have made it clear that they are looking to add an established veteran as their starter.

Washington has been linked to several players. Darcy Kuemper is an unrestricted free agent slated to hit the market after helping the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. The 32-year-old posted a 2.54 goals against average and a .921 save percentage in the regular season. John Gibson, who turns 29 this week, has five seasons left on an eight-year, $51.2 million deal he signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2018. He would be a younger option, but his performance has stagnated in recent seasons.

Toronto’s Jack Campbell, 30, is also in line to be an unrestricted free agent and is expected to have several suitors. Like Gibson, Montreal’s Jake Allen, signed for one more year, could be a trade target.

MacLellan said last week that the goalie market was constantly changing, but Washington is prepared to pay top dollar.

“If you line it up and you look and kind of pay attention to what teams are thinking, it’s a little chaotic and scrambly,” he said. “You’ve got to be constantly monitoring it and seeing what’s happening.”

The Capitals have other decisions to make, too. Defenseman Justin Schultz and forwards Johan Larsson and Marcus Johansson are among their unrestricted free agents. MacLellan said last week that the Capitals had preliminary talks with all of their unrestricted free agents. Schultz’s two-year contract carried a $4 million average annual value; if he returns, it is expected he would have to take a pay cut. Larsson and Johansson arrived at the trade deadline but did not make much of an impact.

Complicating the Capitals’ salary cap picture is the status of center Nicklas Backstrom, who underwent hip resurfacing surgery last month. MacLellan said last week that the 34-year-old hopes to play next season, but the team at first would seek to fill his roster spot internally. Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas and Hendrix Lapierre — one of the standouts at the Capitals’ development camp this week — are expected to compete for a spot.

Lapierre probably is the only player at the development camp who has a chance to make the roster next season. The 20-year-old, a first-round pick in 2020, played six games for the Capitals last season, notching a goal in the season opener, before returning to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Another notable name at camp is defenseman Vincent Iorio, a 2021 second-round pick who signed a three-year entry-level contract in October. The 19-year-old had 11 goals and 33 assists over 60 games in the Western Hockey League last season. Also at camp: Peter Laviolette, the 24-year-old son of the Capitals’ coach. The undrafted forward played at Division III Plymouth State.

Leave a Comment