Three-Season Outlook In Goal For The Washington Capitals

If there is one thing one doesn’t have to worry about as a fan of the Washington Capitals is the franchise’s goaltending depth. Since Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth took over the crease back in the 2010-2011 season, it’s been smooth sailing for the team (ignore the Adam Oates three-headed monster situation in 2013-2014 season). In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look at the goaltending situation for the Capitals over the next three seasons.  

After both Varlamov and Neuvirth departed Washington in separate trades, it was the Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer show for three seasons. They ended up becoming one of, if not the best, starter/backup tandem for the last three seasons. This past season Grubauer was able to hold the fort down as Holtby received some much needed rest before backstopping the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup. In looking at the next three seasons, NoVa Caps will look at the situation heading into next season (2018-19).

Grubauer was traded to the Colorado Avalanche shortly before the 2018 NHL Entry Draft this summer, in a move that will give him the opportunity to establish himself as a number one netminder alongside, ironically enough, Varlamov. That leaves a vacancy as Holtby’s backup and as of now, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan seems pretty comfortable with longtime farmhand Pheonix Copley starting next season on the bench behind Holtby. Though he did have a rough season last year with the [Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate] Hershey Bears it’s hard to blame him, as the team in front of him was not good. Besides that season he’s had a promising AHL career, recording a .919 save percentage in 104 games played. This doesn’t mean he will succeed in the NHL, but the fact goalie guru Mitch Korn helped pick him and trained him is a good sign.

Down in Hershey, the young but highly-talented duo of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov will share the crease. Caps fans should keep a close eye on those two, as they could very well be the future of the Capitals in net, much like Varlamov and Neuvirth, and Holtby and Grubauer were. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both of them get a game or two in the NHL if there are any injuries in the crease with the Capitals. But the reason to really keep an eye on them is because they are THE key to the 2019-2020 season.

Why are they key to the 2019-2020 season? Holtby will be eligible for unrestricted free agency and will be 30-years old at that stage and could potentially want more than the Capitals would be willing to pay. At that stage, Samsonov could be ready to push for NHL time, and ideally would takeover.

The interesting part in all of this is that if the Capitals can’t re-sign Holtby, would they explore the possibility trading him next summer before he goes into the last year of his contract? This is where Samsonov-Vanecek come into play. What if they have fantastic seasons in Hershey with maybe some NHL games? Maybe MacLellan looks to move Holtby so they can get something in return for him instead of him walking for nothing. The assets he attains in a trade for one of the best goalies in the league could really help the Capitals build on the fly and keep them competitive for years to come. But in case he doesn’t move him, the Capitals will still have a great duo in Holtby-Samsonov/Vanecek.

The last of these three seasons is probably easiest to predict. Unless Samsonov really bombs over the next two seasons (which is highly unlikely), he will be the starter for the Capitals come the 2020-2021 season, assuming there is no lockout. Vanecek will most likely be his backup too. If both of those players hit their ceiling (Samsonov an elite top-tier goalie and Vanecek a reliable starter) then the Capitals will have an amazing 1-2 punch in net for a long time.

The first and third of the next three seasons aren’t hard to envision; it will be Holtby-Copley/Vet this season then Samsonov-Vanecek most likely for the 2021-2021 season. Where it’s really going to get interesting is that second season (2019-2020). But either way, these next three years and beyond, the Capitals will be set in the crease. Stanley Cup contenders are made or broken by their goaltenders; it’s re-assuring to know the Capitals won’t have that problem for the foreseeable future.

By Luke Adomanis

This entry was posted in Goaltending, News, NHL, Players, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Three-Season Outlook In Goal For The Washington Capitals

  1. Marv Layden says:

    Maybe, just maybe, Holtby; like Brodeur in NJ, plays into his late 30s with the same team. Barely a month after hoisting the Cup, you’re already chasing the goalie responsible for a significant part of the win from the net…smh.

    While not always the case, most goaltenders hit their primes in the 30-35. My guess is Copley is; at best, a career backup. Vanecek and Samsonov certainly show promise, but smart management will use both goaltenders to bring in talent up front. Barring significant injury, Braden Holtby will be manning the net in DC for more than the next two years.

    • lukeadomanis says:

      No, smart management is letting old players walk that are about to get big money and decline at the same time. I could MAYBE understand keeping Holtby if we had no young talent, but Caps have the best goalie prospect in the game that it is much younger, much cheaper, and will probably be better than Holtby. Would be very very very unwise to extend Holtby past his current contract. I love him but have to separate emotions from the game when trying to asset manage a competitive team.

  2. J says:

    Unless theres something catastrophic, Backy&Holtby get extensions next year, hell hopefully OV too. You have 3 HOF cornerstones, get them done before a potential CBA dispute.

    As for Holtby and goalie situation specifically. Most wins last 4-5 years, 225 or 226, 3x 40Ws seasons and a 35 w season in a “Down” year with a Legendary SC Victory run. Hes only 29-30 hes got 5 good to great years left. With the forwards on this team- Kuzy,Oshie, OV,Backy get extended basically for rest or just about rest of their careers.
    The defense of Carlson, Orlov, Nisky,Kempny(3-4 yrs each I believe)other youngblood coming up after certain guys expire in a few years…
    Holtby should be able to at worst win 38-40 games a year for next 5 years, which will put him over 400 Ws, battle for 1-2 more Vezinas and help try and win atleast 1 more SC starting this year. After that we can reassess the situation.

    • lukeadomanis says:

      Can’t be competitive paying a declining goalie $8M+ a year. Just can’t. Have Samsonov who will most likely be better, younger, and cheaper. Poor asset management to not play him over an older or expensive player.

      • hockeydruid says:

        I agree and IF the Caps have a hangover year next year where they are hanging around 500 in late Jan/Feb, I see a possibility where they could make a trade of Holtby to a team and get a really nice return because then that team would have him for over 1 year and 2 playoff runs. At that point you play a 3-headed goalie of Vanecek/Samsonov/Copley with Copley being the 3rd guy.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      In the salary cap era, you gotta go with value. I love Holts, but Samsonov will be great value for several years to come.

  3. hockeydruid says:

    If this were the 70’s or80’s or even the 90’s you keep Holtby. However in the age ar salary cap you have to seriously consider trading him after the 18/19 season and getting either several young players or a player and draft picks. Yes he could still win a Vezina or 2 after the trade but you cant tie a team down with a massive contract he will demand. I also dont see Backy getting a BIG extension after the 19/20 season because that would then put him close to if not over 7.5min at age 33. Oh and yes although a good player does not have the stats for the HOF and he has never won any of the single season awards. As for Ovie, he will be 36 at the start of the 21/22 season and where do you go from what he makes not,almost $10mil a year, without ruining you salary cap. Would it not be better to ask him to waive his no trade clause after the 19/20 season and see what you could get for him. Either that or he retires at 36. Back to Holtby, as the Caps have 2 young goaltenders waiting in the wings and who are cheaper it makes good fiscal sense and responsible management of the salary cap to trade him and go with the younger guys at lower salary cap hits. With Ovie at $10 mil, Kuzy at $7.5 mil, Eller at $3.5, Carlson at $8.0, Niskanen at $5.75, Orlov at $5.1 and Kemphy at $2.5 and you still have to deal with Wilson (probably going to be 3-5 mil), Burakovsky (this coming season $3mil next year but aRFA after that). Connolly (1.5 this season and a UFA after that), Vrana( only 863 thousand this season but also a RFA after that), Stephenson, Djoos, Copley and Walker (both 650 thousand next season and RFA after that), Bowey a RFA this season and not yet signed for next season,then you have all the kids in Hershey and other draft picks to worry about. So its fine to only worry about one contract if that is what you want to do but that one contract has to also be looked at in terms of the salary cap and what other players you have to pay to keep a good team. If you dont then you end up with a team that doesnt make the playoffs and thus a lot of unhappy fans, owners and players.

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