Where The Capitals Stand Entering Free Agency

With free agency approaching on Wednesday, teams across the NHL will look to improve for the 2022-23 season and beyond. While it is obvious that the Washington Capitals are in need of a starting goaltender after trading Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils on Friday, there could be other areas where the team may look to get better in as well.

In this post I’ll take a look at where the team stands entering free agency and where they could strive to upgrade.

Goaltending

After trading Vanecek, MacLellan said the Capitals will be “in the discussions about all the goalies” this week. The team is expected to acquire a starter soon after Samsonov, who finished the regular season 23-12-5 with an .896 save percentage, a 3.02 goals-against average, and three shutouts despite an 11-1-1 start where he posted a .916 save percentage, a 2.42 goals-against average, and three shutouts through December 9, and Vanecek both could not run with the starting job after picking it up at numerous points last season. At five-on-five last season, Samsonov finished with a .904 save percentage (including .785 at high danger), 2.77 goals-against average, and a -11.59 goals-saved above average (-9.41 at high danger). He also earned an .855 save percentage and 0.70 goals-saved above average on the penalty kill.

The goalie that the Capitals acquire this week will mentor and work with Samsonov to make up the team’s tandem. The Capitals 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 (who have reportedly set a high asking price), who are both currently under contract.

Forwards

The Capitals have plenty of options up front already but the lines included in the organizational depth chart (below) could see some adjustments. Sheary is a natural left-wing and could play that side either next to McMichael or Eller and Mantha could slide next to either, especially after he showed some chemistry with Eller last season.

The Capitals have an opening at right-wing with Wilson out until anywhere in between Thanksgiving and the NHL All-Star Break. Leason would probably be the current favorite to come up to the NHL level in his spot if the team does not go after anyone to play in that role via trade or free agency. It is possible that Oshie could start the year on the third-line given his age and the fact that he missed 38 games due to injury last season.

Protas could compete for a spot at the NHL-level after earning three goals and nine points in 33 games in the big league this past regular season.

Defense

On defense, the Capitals are set in their top-four but could look to add another blueliner with Schultz expected to be let go. Van Riemsdyk could play either side but assistant coach Kevin McCarthy prefers his defensemen to play on their strong side. Lucas Johansen, who put together a strong season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears as he earned eight goals, 28 points, and a +20 rating in 62 games, was recently re-signed to a two-year contract, which is two-way for this season but one-way for next. Given that the Capitals gave him a two-way deal for the upcoming season, they hinted that they are not expecting the 24-year-old to be in the NHL lineup full-time in 2022-23. There could be a good chance that GM Brian MacLellan will pursue a bottom-pairing defenseman in free agency.

Pending unrestricted free agents: Johansson, Larsson, Schultz, Kempny, Irwin

Changes Coming

After four straight first-round exits in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and with an aging core, changes could happen in Washington this week (and maybe even beyond) which could include shake ups in certain areas. The depth chart shown above will likely not be the Capitals’ opening night roster but there is some work to do if they want to salvage another Stanley Cup out of the current core, especially with Wilson and Backstrom expected to miss the start of the season.

Who knows? The Capitals’ outlook for the 2022-23 campaign could look different in a matter of just a few days.

Possible Targets

Left-Handed Defensemen

Right Wings

Goaltenders

Centers

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 Where The Capitals Stand Entering Free Agency

  1. DWGie26 says:

    I could see a world where we don’t go after a goalie early unless Keumper really does want to come here and signs a reasonable contract. I think i am still in the camp of give the starters role to Sammy alone and a cheap vet as backup with Fucale being able to come up in an emergency. Then spend on 2C (while trading Eller to unlock CMM for 3C. This also gives us a chance to sign strong LD in the 3-4M range. If we go Keumper it eliminates the dee option and we’ll have to go cheap and we’ll be a bit hamstrung on 2C.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      That makes some sense. I would also love to see a high-powered center join the team, but I think MacLellan was being straightforward when he said the team’s number one priority will be goaltending. Now he’s not always accurately broadcasting the teams plans, in order to provide a more advantageous stance, but I tHink in this case he is.

  2. Michael says:

    They’re gonna sign Kuemper for $6M and 6 years. He’s 32, inconsistent and injury prone. Can be good, can be average or worse, at times. Don’t think GMBM will make many changes to the rest of the roster and he’s explaining himself as hamstrung, essentially, with 19 and Hagelin’s contracts and intent to play this season. If this is the significant change we make, then that’s a disappointing offseason. Would love to see them move Mantha for someone else, but he likely won’t move him after giving up Vrana to get him.

  3. Tom Dowd says:

    Sign Keumper for 5.75m/5 years. Sign JTMiller as 2C for 5m/4 years. Offload Eller and all other UFA’s. CMM gets 3C. IF 19 comes back, he and CMM share 3C role. Kids are ready…..CMM, Snively, Protas, Leason, Johansson.
    LET’S GO CAPS

  4. steven says:

    For goalie, if going the FA route than sign Mikko Koskinenfor $5 mil for 3 years. That way 2 things happen: 1) we get to se if sammy can get his act togetherand 2) the guys in Hershey and SC get a chance to learn and grow as players. If needed Fuale or even Copley (yes I know he is a UFA) can backup fo a short period. We dont need to sign anyong to a 5 or 6 year deal as the players we have in the minors will be ready before then and what do you do then. remember to KISS it…..keep it simple stupid! Just an idea but maybe Holtby on a 2 year deal? Also is management looking for a starter or someone to sit behind Sammy?

    NO problem moving Eller. CMM best suited for 3rd line so either we song a center or Lapierre takes it ove.

    Once again JT Miller is wayto expensive for us not ony in money but in years he will want. Also a lot depends on Backy; if he retires then we have more flexability if he doesnt then we dont. As for the C how about Vincent Trocheck if Backy is not coming back. So before Tuesday night Backy and GNBN have to sit down and decide does he retie of come back. Short term contract offers to: Ryan Strome. Victor Rask, Rickard Rakell, Paul Stastny, Sam Gagner, Ryan Donato as all these guys would fit the system nicely and produce.

    REmember ont thing a goalie isonly as good as the D in fron to him. As for D start with resigning Irwin as he can sit for long periods of time and still be productive and perform at a high level. One ting to look at here is when will the guys in Hershey be ready as that will have a say in years and $$ offfered. Would love Leffy but think he is out of our price range. Would be nice to have Suban for leadership but he would be on the 3rd pair and probably also out of our price range. maybe someone like Maatta or Zadorov or Chiarot or Kulak or even Rutta. It would be very interesting to see what an old Cap could still do in getting Connor Carrick back.

  5. DWGie26 says:

    I have always been on board with Holtby but Sadly it looks like he is out for next year and may have his career over with a lower body injury. Mikko K could be interesting but I don’t know as much about him, but I like a 3 year plan.

    Thing about Strome and Trochet is they can also play RW. So can Copp. Only need 1 of them and then a bunch of cheap rookies who can play now. I’d rather spend there and on a dee versus a big goalie contract. And GMBM can still be true to his word on getting a veteran goalie.

    I am very excited to see Protas play more this year. He is waivers exempt so when Wilson comes back he will likely go back to Hershey while Leason, AJF, and Snively will stay in DC since they are not.

  6. Larry says:

    Samsonov is the future. His upside it too great to ignore. I wish the best of luck to Vanecek. We need a high/reasonable price veteran goalie for the next 2-3 year. I was hoping for a Forsberg FA signing splash, however since he signed back with the Preds, my thinking has changed. Sign Burakovsky and maybe management should go all in with the prospects from Hershey.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I want to see Eller and Hags sent to ARI or CHI… use extra money to get another solid D and G…

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