- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2022

Before last week’s NHL draft, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said the team would be giving qualifying offers to both of its goalies, Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.

Then, once Vanecek was traded to New Jersey in exchange for draft capital, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Washington would try to keep Samsonov around, even if the Capitals wanted to go after one of the top goalies on the market.

Well, MacLellan & Co. are bucking conventional wisdom, not just by trading Vanecek to shake up what’s been the status quo in net for the past two years, but now by not issuing a qualifying offer to Samsonov by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline. Samsonov, 25, will now become a free agent.

Samsonov, Washington’s first-round pick in 2015, has been inconsistent over the past three seasons, amassing a mediocre .902 save percentage in 89 games. Last season, he posted three shutouts in 39 starts with a 23-12-5 record, but his .896 save percentage was worse than each of his first two seasons. 

Now, with Samsonov and Vanecek gone, MacLellan must search the free agent and trade market for not just one, but two netminders. The only goalie under contract with Washington is Zach Fucale, who played well in four games for the Capitals but had an .896 save percentage with Hershey at 26 years old. 

“We’ve been trying to change our goaltending up a little bit,” MacLellan told reporters in Montreal on Friday. “This is the first step in doing that. We’ve still got some work to do to fill out our goaltending duo and some further decisions to make as we go forward here.”

MacLellan also called the goalie market “chaotic,” as several of the top options — including Marc-Andre Fleury, Ville Husso and Alexandar Georgiev — are no longer available. A few of the best goalies on the market are Darcy Kuemper (Colorado) and Jack Campbell (Toronto).

Free agency begins Wednesday. 

“I think we’re open to all avenues. I think the goaltending market is changing as we go here, day by day,” MacLellan said over the weekend. “We’ve got free agency coming up on Wednesday, so we’ll be involved in all of the discussions about goalies.”

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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