The Potential Factors Regarding Which Goaltender The Capitals Will Trade This Offseason

After a season which saw three goaltenders being given a chance to grab hold of the No. 1 job but none of them running with the opportunity, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told the media that addressing the situation in net will be the team’s No. 1 priority this offseason.

That almost certainly means one of Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek will be moved after the Capitals lock their man in via free agency or trade. Which one will it be? NoVa Caps examines a few factors that will be major in the decision.

Basic Statistics

As you can see, Vanecek turned in the stronger regular season of the two netminders. He held a considerable advantage in almost all of the basic statistical categories, including save percentage, goals against average and goals differential (XGA- GA). [Click to enlarge]

However, the script was completely flipped in the postseason. Ilya Samsonov took over in Game 2 and finished the series for the Capitals.

While Vanecek has had the better save percentage and goals-against average in each of the past two seasons, there are a few other factors to consider.

Restricted Free Agency

Both Vanecek and Samsonov can become restricted free agents with arbitration rights on July 17. The Capitals’ qualifying offer to Samsonov will have to be at least $2.2 million (110% of his previous cap hit) and the team must decide whether he is worth that or not before the deadline to tender qualifying offers.

Vanecek’s qualifying offer should not be as interesting since he accounted for just $716,667 against the NHL salary cap this past season and he will make more than $788,334 in 2022-23.

The Capitals could also not tender a qualifying offer to Samsonov and get him lower than $2 million against the salary cap but would risk him testing unrestricted free agency and losing him.

Caliber of Goaltender Acquired

The Capitals’ decision will likely come after they have another goaltender under contract for next season to determine which of Vanecek or Samsonov fits their need as a No. 2, tandem, or No. 1 goaltender.

Would they sign a less experienced netminder such as pending unrestricted free agent Villie Husso, who has just 57 games of NHL regular season experience and just coughed up the St. Louis Blues’ starting job to Jordan Binnington in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, for example? In that instance, perhaps keeping Vanecek would be the best move since Vanecek has proven that he can run with the ball for longer stretches of time than Samsonov.

Or would the Capitals sign a proven veteran like Darcy Kuemper who has shown that he can take hold of the No. 1 job? In that event, maybe Samsonov would be the best goaltender to keep since he has shown higher upside and athleticism level. There would be less pressure on Samsonov to play at a high level for 50+ games since a goaltender of Kuemper’s ilk would provide a security blanket and be ahead of him on the depth chart.

Trade Return

While both goaltenders have shown signs of promise, neither has demonstrated that they could be the top goaltender for the Capitals yet.

So, the team could opt to put both on the trade block and test the market.

Vanecek could net a better return considering he has had the better stats for the past two seasons and is the more mature of the two. If it gets to a point where the Capitals really like an offer, they could just take it and go from there.


Vanecek is about 13 and a half months older than Samsonov. Since they are close in age, this could not have a major impact but it could come down to age if the Capitals see the two pretty similar in other factors.

The Time Is Drawing Near

The aforementioned represents just a few of the primary factors that will be considered should the Capitals look to deal one of their current goaltenders.

When asked if it was possible the Capitals could keep both netminders for next season,  MacLellan agreed it was possible. However, considering the state of flux at the position over the past two seasons, one could easily surmise that the days of the two-headed question mark are over.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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12 Responses to The Potential Factors Regarding Which Goaltender The Capitals Will Trade This Offseason

  1. Jon Sorensen says:

    Twitter poll results:

  2. Anonymous says:

    Such a tough decision. They should get a second round pick if they don’t include in a deal for the starting goaltender.

  3. novafyre says:

    I see that Semin is having a retirement party. Until Sammy came along, to me Semin was the poster boy for not living up to his ability.

  4. Steve says:

    How close are the next goaltender prospects to being a factor in this calculation?

    • Anonymous says:

      I think they are a ways off. Clay Stevenson could be the wild card. Mitchell Gibson has committed to getting his degree (Harvard, can’t blame him) but that puts him at close to 25 before even getting to Hershey. Hunter Shepard could also be another wild card. He will get a larger role in Hershey next season with Copley likely moving on. Chase Clark and Harin Bjorklund are are still 2-3 years out at the soonest.

  5. steven says:

    Looking at both goalies two things stand out to me. 1) VV has the maturity to handle being a backup and 2) At the ages of 26 and 27 (both turn that dueing the middle of the season) I think keeping VV and signing a goalie to a 2-3 year deal and trading Sammy. That gives the young goalies at Hershey 2-3 years to be ready to step in and that the job. Question is who would want Sammy at this point in his career and what can you get in terms of picks for him? Really dont want players with salary cap as that is what we are trying to reduce. Could we get a #1 or maybe two #2’s? One has to wonder if Trotz had been signed and Korn also kept where would our goalies be now? Yes Holtby would be gone but maybe with Korn the 2 we have might be better. Just a thought.

    • novafyre says:

      After the Bolts win over the Cats, local postgame spoke with the Bolts goalie coach. The entire segment dealt with how much of a goalie’s success is mental and how critical that goalie coach is to the mindset of the goalie. Not just conditioning. Not just positioning. Being in the right frame of mind. Developing techniques to overcome goals given up. Staying sharp, staying focused. Preparing before a game but also coming down afterwards. This is where Korn shines. He is a goalie whisperer, and I think he might have made a difference.

      However, I still believe that Sammy just hasn’t had that competitive attitude to go with his physical talents. I don’t know if Korn could have changed that. But I’m sure that there are teams who feel that their goalie coach can bring Sammy’s mindset up to his talent level.

      • steven says:

        Totally agree and also think that giving him $2 mil a year went to his head and he thought he was better than he really is right now. As the sayig goes fish or cut bait and on this one I say cut bait and bring in an experienced goalie for 2-3 years until one of the guys in the minors is ready. VV will be well suited to be the #2 goalie here more than Sammy.

        • Anonymous says:

          But who do you bring in? The goalie market this summer is very thin. Losing Sammy to give Kuemper a shot seems like wasting a lot of potential on a middle-tier goalie. I know he’s had a good season with Colorado, but what goalie wouldn’t look good with that roster in front of him?

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