Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan is in Russia meeting with prospect Ilya Samsonov as part of a push to get the goaltender playing in North America next season, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Washington drafted Samsonov in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft, and he’s widely considered one of the best goaltending prospects in the world. His contract with Magnitogorsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League expires after this season, so it makes sense that MacLellan would want to ramp up negotiations with Samsonov’s camp and get him signed to play in the Washington organization next season.
Because Samsonov, 20, is still under contract in the KHL, the Capitals cannot officially sign him until April 30, but a mutual agreement can be reached before then.
The Capitals could have an opening for Samsonov in their organizational goaltending rotation next season. Philipp Grubauer, Washington’s No. 2 netminder, will be a restricted free agent again after this season, and after two years impressing as Braden Holtby’s backup, he’s believed to be ready for more responsibility. With Holtby under contract through the 2019-20 season, the Capitals could look to trade Grubauer, either before the late February trading deadline or in the offseason.
In the American Hockey League, the Capitals have 21-year-old Vitek Vanecek and 25-year-old Pheonix Copley, who will be on a one-way deal next season, an indication the team plans to have him in Washington by that point.
Samsonov played in 27 games with Magnitogorsk last season, and he had a 2.13 goals against average with a .936 save percentage. Through 17 games played this season, he has a .909 save percentage with a 2.87 goals against average. At the most recent World Juniors, Samsonov was named the tournament’s top goaltender by the media.
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