As the trade deadline approaches, the chatter increases. It’s long been debated that the Washington Capitals need help with goalkeeping and offensive assistance if they have any chance of a Stanley Cup run this season. Given that the Eastern Conference is loaded, featuring six of the league’s top seven teams, one or two pieces may not prove to compromise much in a deal.
Ilya Samsonov has been the subject of debate for the past couple of months, but the transfer of the young goalkeeper to a veteran or in a separate deal may not necessarily categorize the capitals as “buyers”. Although his play was inconsistent in relieving Vitek Vanecek, he could still become a valuable asset to any franchise, or perhaps remain so for Washington.
Samsonov as a valuable asset
So, why would Samsonov move if he was so good? It’s a little dilemma to manage under the surface. First, he and Vanishek are young (24 and 26, respectively), so the future is set in Washington — not just two futures. It would be very difficult to keep both on the long-term contracts, especially considering that Samsonov would need more money than his already $2 million annual salary, and Vanecek is worth a lot more than his $716,667 annual salary. Both are a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
|Goalkeeper||age||GP||register||Memorizes %||GAA||annual salary|
|Ilya Samsonov||24||29||17-7-3||.906||2.84||2 million dollars|
Statistically speaking, Vanecek is doing better, which is why he was given a nod at the wrinkle by coach Peter Laviollette last month. Then he landed on the injured reserve in the upper body. Health, just like candles and playing dips, are included in the contrast. Samsonov was given a sweet and bitter chance to prove that it should remain a capital or become a valuable asset to other buyers by the deadline.
Samsonov’s last five matches
Over the past two weeks, Samsonov has gone 3-2 and averaged 908 saves (SV%) and 2.20 goals-to-average (GAA) per game. Prior to that, his season aggregate values were 14-12-5, .902 SV%, and 2.88 GAA, so there was a slight uptick in his play.
He has shown periods of great ability and why Washington drafted him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. From Washington’s perspective, it might not be his performance, but rather a financial move to deal with him before the deadline or allow him to secure a contract with another team at free agency this summer.
Two names that have been associated with capitals as goalkeeper acquisitions are a familiar foe and a fan favorite. Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby have grown up in the rumor mill as potential rentals for the remainder of this season. There is probably no compelling need for a deal over the summer as a youngster’s start will be cemented in 2022-23 and Zach Fucale has proven he can be a viable backup if the team takes that route. In four NHL games this season, he has a 1-1-1 record with 0.924 SV%, 1.75 GAA, and one closing.
|Goalkeeper||age||Record (last 5 starts)||Memorizes %||GAA||match record|
|Marc-Andre Fleury||37||2-3-0||.897||3.00||90-70 (3 cups)|
|Braden Holtby||32||3-2-0||.895||3.40||50-46 (1 cup)|
Samsonov outperforms both veterans of late. Fleury suffered a lockout/penalty shootout loss in relief on February 18th, however, that would have boosted his numbers. In Holtby’s last five games, he has scored 895 SV% and 3.40 goals per game.
Back to Florey; It should be borne in mind that he plays behind a worse defense. The Chicago Blackhawks rank well below the Capitals and Dallas Stars in the number of goals allowed per game, penalty kick percentage, and shots per game. Washington ranks seventh, eighteenth, and fifth, respectively, in those categories.
Related: Capitals need to tackle the goalkeeper situation now
Finally, the experience factor must be taken into account. Fleury played in 162 playoffs and has career averages of 0.912 and 2.53 and is on his way to three Stanley Cups. Holtby has played in 97 games and scored career averages of 0.926 and 2.13 en route to one Stanley Cup (and fans know exactly when that was). Samsonov 0-3 with an average of 2.99 and 0.899. A hot goalkeeper in the qualifiers can carry a team away, and even more so if the defense in front of him is solid.
Realistically, the Capitals will move from Samsonov after the 2021-22 season ends. The problem is knowing how far the team can really go this season. As of now, with the conference loaded as is, it will take them more than just a goalkeeper to get past this challenge. If they think they can run, they should buy, but they are in a good position to balance out any big moves. Or they can ride this season with the current roster, give their youngsters more experience, and maybe catch fire in time.
Related: The capital of buyers and sellers should be at 20 years22 trade deadline
Vanecek should return to his starting role when he is healthy as Samsonov has not shown a sufficient increase in productivity. It was solid but not convincing. It was enough, however, to convince the other teams of a deal. If Washington replaces Samsonov with an important piece, the team may appear to be a buyer, but they could bring in a good sum for the young Russian, including a key player, if another franchise on the sidelines of the playoffs in the coming years considers it an important piece for their future.
If that’s the case, giving up might not be high picks or potentially not the worst thing because it could reclaim picks and/or prospects in the aforementioned deal. Just as with the current state of housing, it’s a seller’s market in the NHL. Washington must act sooner rather than later before other buyers step in.
Karl Knauf is a leading author and journalist (so says the testimony). He specializes in sports – primarily hockey – music, and the publishing industry. His sports writing has appeared in The Hockey Writers, Last Word On Sports, and local newspapers in his home state of New Mexico. He covers Carl Washington Capitals with accurate reporting and detailed analysis to help readers answer basic and pressing questions like, “Why haven’t the capitals won the Stanley Cup (again)?”
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