The competition was mainly for the backup role among Vanecek, Pheonix Copley and Craig Anderson, who is in training camp on a professional tryout agreement.
“Right now this is the decision we made with these two kids,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “They’ve worked hard to get to this position to gain an opportunity, and now they’ll get a chance to show what they can do.”
Experience is the biggest question for Samsonov and Vanecek, but Laviolette and his coaching staff are confident in their ability. Even before Lundqvist’s brief stint with the team, the organization felt comfortable going with Samsonov and Vanecek.
As Holtby’s backup, Samsonov, 23, finished last season with a 16-6-2 record while posting a 2.55 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He was injured in an off-ice accident in his native Russia before last year’s postseason and was unable to travel with the team, but he says he is now 100 percent healthy.
Vanecek, 25, was an American Hockey League all-star with the Hershey Bears the past two years and posted a 2.26 goals against average and a .917 save percentage last season.
“At some point, you’ve got to take a look at your young players,” Laviolette said.
With the NHL requiring teams to carry three goaltenders this season under the league’s coronavirus protocols, it appears likely that Anderson, 39, will be the goalie assigned to the Capitals’ taxi squad. Anderson will have to go through waivers if the team wants to assign him to the taxi squad. As of Monday afternoon, he remained unsigned.
The Capitals also trimmed their roster Monday, putting a handful of players on waivers and sending several prospects back to Hershey.
NHL teams need to set their opening night rosters by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Each team’s taxi squad, which requires a minimum of four players and a maximum of six, will also have to be set by then.
Daniel Carr, Zach Fucale, Shane Gersich, Lucas Johansen, Paul LaDue, Cam Schilling, Mike Sgarbossa, Philippe Maillet and Copley were put on waivers. Washington will learn at noon Tuesday whether any of them were claimed by other teams.
Kody Clark, Brett Leason, Garrett Pilon, Joe Snively and Riley Sutter were loaned to Hershey. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, who is playing in Sweden, will be reassigned to Hershey. Hendrix Lapierre, the Capitals’ first-round draft pick last year, will return to Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The Capitals had 23 players on the ice — 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders — for their practice session Monday. Washington appears to be narrowly compliant with the salary cap if it goes with that configuration on opening night.
Defenseman Martin Fehervary and forward Brian Pinho, who are exempt from waivers, were not sent back to Hershey and also were not practicing Monday. That indicates they are likely to end up on the taxi squad.