Why The Capitals Will Need To Acquire A Veteran Backup Goaltender For The 2020-21 Season

Assuming Braden Holtby does indeed decide to leave the Capitals for that big payday this offseason (we can’t blame him), the Washington Capitals will find themselves in need of a second goaltender for the 2020-21 season. While many are suggesting that the Capitals look within the organization for the additional goaltender, the only really viable solution is to sign a veteran netminder.

The reason is several fold.

Many have suggested assigning the backup roll to netminder prospect Vitek Vanecek. While that sounds ideal in nature, it would simply be too soon. The combination of Samsonov and Vanecek would give the Capitals a grand total of 26 games of NHL experience for next season. That’s too much inexperience to make a serious run for a Stanley Cup. A good solution if you are re-building, but not ideal if you plan to make a legitimate run for a second Cup.

In addition, we have to remember that Samsonov is still young and developing. Even though he has been playing professional hockey since 2015, he has typically only averaged 20+ regular season starts in his career, topping 30 starts just one time. He would still benefit from being paired with a seasoned vet.

An NHL regular season grind is like no other. Samsonov will be asked to stretch his regular season games total this season, but 40-45 games is about the most games he will likely see without giving him too much, too soon, risking injury and possibly burning him out.

That leaves 40 games (+/-) for the backup netminder. That’s too many games to ask Vanecek to take, considering he has no NHL games under his belt, and his career high regular season starts is 39 AHL games for the Bears in the 2016-17 regular season.

Also, remember that Samsonov is coming off of an injury. An injury severe enough to have him miss all of the team’s postseason. The Capitals say he will be ready to go come training camp, but you never know for sure until camp rolls around.

However, a couple of long-shot wildcards are still plausible.

The one long-shot scenario that has Braden Holtby staying in Washington would restore the Samsonov-Holtby duo in goal. If Holtby examines the free agent market and determines this year is financially unacceptable (which is possible) and feels next offseason would provide more lucrative opportunities, he could wait-out the league’s grim financial situation in Washington and sign a one or two-year extension. It’s no secret that all teams are dumping salary and shedding costs because of the fiscal environment associated with the COVID-19 stoppage, and signing big contracts is not as appealing as it was back in January. The Capitals would jump all over a friendly short-term deal with Holtby. Again, that’s a long shot.

Another wildcard would be the Capitals own financial situation requires changes to the lineup that are not ideal. If General manger Brian MacLellan believes the team needs to trim costs in every way possible, he could decide to bite the bullet and roll the dice with the two youngsters in goal, thus saving the several million he would have spent on a veteran netminder. Again, that’s another long shot, and not ideal.

The ideal scenario would see Vitek Vanecek getting games next season with a seasoned veteran eating 45-50 regular games. Unfortunately, Vanecek is not waivers exempt, meaning once he joins the Capitals he would need to clear waivers to return to Hershey. That ties the hands of the Capitals quite a bit.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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12 Responses to Why The Capitals Will Need To Acquire A Veteran Backup Goaltender For The 2020-21 Season

  1. hockeydruid says:

    I did not realize that Vanecek was not waiver exempt and that changes everything. In the first scenario if the Caps are going to look at rebuilding then you do not resign Holtby and play both young goalies and expose Copley to the draft. Under this scenario I do not see Ovie resigning here which may be best for the ream in the long run. In the second they resign Holtby for 1 year and can expose him to the draft next year thus keeping their young goalies. But under this one is there enough to show Ovie that you are not rebuilding thus having him resign here. Also is it worth financially resigning Ovie as I do not see him taking a pay cut. So even if the goalie situation solved this team is in big trouble with salary cap the next 3 or 4 years unless a big salary is traded and one goes in the draft.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ye get rid of ovi for sure he is usless

      • hockeydruid says:

        WOW talk about missing the point. If this team is going to improve they need to shed salary. If they shed salary and go into a retool mode why would Ovie resign here? Can you honestly say that you would rather have a team that just made the playoffs or missed with a top heavy salary and Ovie or one that might not win the next 2-3 years but in 4-5 years be set and once again a Cupo contender on a yearly basis? So as good as Ovie is and as fun to watch when he is HOT is he worth keeping and loosign but not getting a high pick to really help this team for whatever contract he signs? So tell me are you that much in love with Ovie that you would rather the team sink than move him?

  2. hockeydruid says:

    If Im correct teams can carry 23 players but dress only 20. Then the problem is solved in that you carry 3 goalies. Samsonov, Vanecek and an experienced netminder who you can find, hopefully, at a bargin price!

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I thought about that as well, Druid. They always say stay away from the 3-headed monster, but for me, I would consider doing just that. Like you said, it solves all of the problems. The only issue would be reduced playing time for Vanecek, who would get more games in Hershey. I would hope the Capitals listen to you and I 🙂

      • hockeydruid says:

        In this time of the virus and with a flat cap it makes sense to maximize your personal and take that chance. I would see early in the year Vanecek getting few games but as the season wore on getting more. This would keep all the goalies fresh and at the same time give game experience. Lastly if they bring in a good goalie coach maybe and just maybe they go into the season with just the 2 young goalies.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          With ya. Use the vet backup when needed early, go with Sammy and Vanecek early in the season, get both a few games under their belts, maybe play veteran every 5th game, phase him in for end of season and postseason.

          • hockeydruid says:

            Totally agree and with the right backup and goalie coach you would have like 2 coaches for the young guys thus keeping everyone happy. And when they have the ack-to-backs the vet could be the backup on both nights giving one of the young guys 4 or 5 nights off.

      • Scotty H says:

        I get your point, but we have no idea if there will even be a season in Hershey next year. The AHL will not be able to function without fans in seats.

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