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Capitals crease gets complicated with Samsonov signing

Capitals crease gets complicated with Samsonov signing

The Washington Capitals signed Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov to a three-year entry level deal that should bring him to North America next season. Whether it will be in the NHL is another question.

Drafted in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Capitals, Samsonov has long been tipped as a possible future No. 1 for the organization. (You can read the InGoal breakdown of Samsonov from his Draft season here). The 6-foot-3 stopper  put up strong numbers for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL in each of the past three seasons, including a .926 save percentage in 26 regular season games this year and .936 in 27 games last year after helping the Russian club to win the Gagarin Cup in 2016.

The 21-year-old’s “arrival” coincides with current backup Philipp Grubauer reaching restricted free agency, something which may have played a part in the Capitals decision to move on Samsonov.

Grubauer posted an impressive .923 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average in 35 appearances this season, leading to Washington Head Coach Barry Trotz handing the 26-year-old the start versus Columbus in Game One of the Capitals first round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The German goalie was unable to recreate his regular season form against the Blue Jackets, however, relinquishing the net in game two of the series, with Braden Holtby retaining the crease ever since.

Despite the playoff slump, Grubauer is likely to be in-line for a significant raise on the $1.5 million he earned this season. But it may be hard for the cap-strapped Capitals, who were openly shopping Grubauer last summer but asking for a steep return, to give it to him.

Washington is keen to retain the services of defenceman John Carlson, who looks set to cash in on his career high 15 goals and 68 points this season as a pending unrestricted free agent, but have limited cap space available with which to re-sign the American blueliner and fill out their roster.

This likely necessitates the need for a cheaper backup option in net, with the Capitals now able to look at either Pheonix Copley, who has one year left on his present deal at $650,000, and was in-line to take on the backup role if Grubauer was claimed in the expansion draft, or the newly-signed Samsonov as possible replacements. Washington also has Vitek Vanacek signed for one more season on his entry-level contract, and Adam Carlson will be a restricted free agent this summer. 

 

About The Author

Rob McGregor

A member of the InGoal Magazine family since 2014, Rob is also Media Manager for the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the UK and a former goaltender in Great Britain's third tier National League (NIHL).

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