Photo: Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Capitals traded goaltender Vitek Vanecek, along with the 46th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, to the New Jersey Devils for picks 37 and 70 in Saturday’s draft. The 26-year-old could become a restricted free agent on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old went 20-12-6 with a .908 save percentage, a 2.67 goals-against average (tied for 17th in NHL), and four shutouts, including a stretch where he went 11-7-4 with a .935 save percentage (third), a 1.96 goals-against average (third), and three shutouts (tied for league lead) from December 16-March 6.
Vanecek entered the postseason as the Capitals’ No. 1 in net but coughed it up after posting an .863 save percentage and a 4.21 goals-against average in the first five periods of the team’s first-round series against the Florida Panthers before Samsonov took the job again and never looked back. Samsonov posted a .912 save percentage and 2.97 goals-against average the rest of the way.
In 79 career NHL games with the Capitals, Vanecek earned a 41-22-10 record, .908 save percentage, a 2.68 goals-against average, and 10 shutouts. The Capitals took him 39th overall in 2014.
Vanecek was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2022 NHL Expansion Draft before they dealt him back to Washington the next week for the Winnipeg Jets’ 2023 second-round pick.
The Capitals have $23.345 million in salary cap space with right-wing Marcus Johansson (pending unrestricted free agent), center Johan Larsson (UFA), defenseman Justin Schultz (UFA), defenseman Michal Kempny (UFA), defenseman Matt Irwin (UFA), and Samsonov (both restricted free agents) up for contract.
The team is expected to sign a veteran to pair up with Samsonov as the Capitals’ goalie tandem in 2022-23. They have been linked to pending unrestricted free agents Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell in addition to Anaheim Ducks netminder John Gibson and Jake Allen of the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanecek’s first game in Washington with the Devils will be on Thursday, March 9. The Capitals’ season finale is on Thursday, April 13 against the Devils at home as well.
By Harrison Brown