It’s often stated that when it comes to the draft, the best philosophy is to select the most qualified player available at the time of the selection, regardless of position or team needs. Expanding on this theme, the thought is you can always trade a good, talented player if the need or opportunity for the selected player never materializes with the Capitals. This philosophy holds true to a point, and the Capitals have reached that point with Goalies.
Last year the Capitals drafted the young Russian phenom goalie Ilya Samsonov with their number one pick, even though the team was already very deep at the goalie position (at the time the Caps had Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley, Vitek Vanecek, Justin Peters, Philipp Grubauer and a development camp standout or two). The Caps ultimately utilized the depth to improve at other positions by trading top prospect goalie Pheonix Copley and Troy Brouwer to the Blues for T.J. Oshie. The current contract status for all goalies under contract with the Capitals is detailed in the following table: (GeneralFanager.com)
The Projected Plan
In a perfect world, Ilya Samsonov (19 years old) will ultimately supplant Braden Holtby (26 years old) at the end of Holtby’s current contract, in 2020. The salary cap climate, player ages and other roster needs would support this big picture plan. This scenario would leave a resultant need for a steady backup for Holtby during the next four seasons. Enter Vitek Vanecek (20 years old). Vanecek, under contract through ’17-’18, had a pretty good season for the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL) this year. With the unlikely re-signing of Justin Peters in Hershey, the Capitals would love to see Vanecek make the leap to Hershey this fall. This would address the spot opened up from Peters likely departure, and begin preparations for Vanecek to make the next step to the NHL. Under the aforementioned scenarios, this would leave Philipp Grubauer (24 years old), in the last year of his current contact, as the odd-man out. Again, in a perfect world.
Look for Philipp Gurbauer to finish out his contract this upcoming season. Grubauer will be an RFA at the end of next season. The Capitals can shoot for a one-year extension, or go to arbitration in order to extend Grubauer for one year. This is assuming Vanecek will not be ready to assume the back-up role in the 2017-2018 season. Ideally, it would be nice to get something in return for Grubauer, however the Caps are lacking in an experienced back-up for the 2017-2018 season.
Additionally, don’t completely rule out the Capitals drafting another goalie in the upcoming draft this month. This philosophy may seem to cut against the grain, particularly related to the aforementioned context. However the Caps are in a unique position, with goalie guru Mitch Korn currently on staff. The Capitals will always be looking to maximize his knowledge and ability to identify top prospects and to shape young talent. Korn will not always be with the Capitals, so it’s good to make use of his talents and abilities to identify young talent while they can.
Things will be status quo for the time being, with some potential trade rumors around or prior to July 1. Currently the 2017-2018 season is somewhat in question with regards to a backup to Holtby. Additionally, Holtby will be 30 at the end of his existing contract (2020). It will be interesting to see how things unfold with regards to re-signing Holtby to a shorter deal, and if the Caps can sign Samsonov and how Samsonov develops over the next four seasons.
By Jon Sorensen