Captain Alex Ovechkin, soon to be an unrestricted free agent, has yet to sign a new contract; his 13-year, $124 million deal expires when free agency opens Wednesday. MacLellan said he anticipates getting a deal done before free agency begins.
“I think both parties want the same goal, and I think we will get it done by then,” MacLellan said. “I anticipate us getting it done by then.”
Ovechkin, who turns 36 in September, had 24 goals and 18 assists in 45 regular season games last season. His salary cap hit was $9.54 million, and he is one goal behind Marcel Dionne (731) for the fifth most in NHL history.
But bringing the captain back into the fold isn’t the Capitals’ only concern. Losing goaltender Vitek Vanecek in the Seattle expansion draft gave them virtually no salary cap relief and complicated the roster for next season. Not only do the Capitals have to re-sign Ovechkin, but they also have to sign presumed starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
MacLellan said he has had initial conversations with Samsonov’s agents and they will pick up talks after free agency opens. A short-term “bridge deal” is likely for his next contract.
“Given the season he had last year, a little inconsistency there, I think [a bridge deal] probably works for both parties,” MacLellan said. “I think he recognizes or his representatives recognize that there’s upside there. We recognize there’s upside there.”
Samsonov had been on a three-year entry-level contract that carried a salary cap hit of $925,000. He had a 2.69 goals against average and a .902 save percentage last season in 19 games, missing time following a positive test for the coronavirus after sitting out the previous postseason with an off-ice injury. He also missed time late in the season after landing on the NHL’s coronavirus protocols list for a second time.
MacLellan said he still believes Samsonov, 24, has the potential to be a No. 1 goaltender and he will have to earn that role this season.
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov joined Samsonov on the NHL’s coronavirus list both times. Kuznetsov, who carries a $7.8 million cap hit for the next four seasons, has been inconsistent since his 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs heroics. MacLellan indicated in May that Kuznetsov was on the table for trade discussions — as were most players on the roster. He doubled down on that approach Saturday.
“He is a good player,” MacLellan said. “We like the player. I don’t know. We’ve never said we’re trading Kuznetsov. I said we were open to discussions on most of our players on the trade market and if it comes up, it comes up. And if it doesn’t make sense, same as always. It’s never been we’re moving Kuznetsov. It’s been portrayed [that way] in a few places, but that’s not exactly the case.”
On the blue line, MacLellan said he checked in with 44-year-old Zdeno Chara earlier in the offseason and is likely to do so again when free agency opens to see “if he’s serious about coming back or not coming back and where the salary is going to end up.” Chara said at the end of the season that he wanted to talk over the decision with his family. Also, fellow defenseman John Carlson had minor knee surgery but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
Without a first-round pick in this year’s draft — it went to Detroit in the Anthony Mantha/Jakub Vrana blockbuster trade in April — the Capitals made their first selection Saturday: Defenseman Vincent Iorio was a second-round pick, 55th overall. He has spent the past three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of Canada’s Western Hockey League.
The right-shot defenseman is 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds. Iorio said he knows Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon well, from summer training. Dillon texted Iorio, 18, when he was drafted.
“I’m very eager to learn and to go into camp,” Iorio said. “Just to soak in everything like a sponge, take everything in and all the information in. ... I’m really looking forward to that.”
Washington acquired an additional pick when it traded the 75th selection to the New York Rangers for Nos. 80 and 176. With the 80th pick, the Capitals selected defenseman Brent Johnson, a University of North Dakota commit. Last season with Sioux Falls in the U.S. Hockey League, the 18-year-old had 11 goals and 21 assists in 47 games.
Johnson is the second Brent Johnson to join the organization — joining the former goaltender and current TV analyst — and there might be a deeper tie than originally thought.
“I think I was named after him,” the younger Johnson said. “Kind of funny. It’s pretty cool. … It’s a myth. My parents won’t tell me the story.”
With the 119th pick, the Capitals chose defenseman Joaquim Lemay from the British Columbia Hockey League. Lemay is an 18-year-old Quebec native slated to attend the University of Nebraska Omaha next season.
Washington grabbed its first non-defenseman in the fifth round with pick No. 151, choosing German center Haakon Hanelt, 18. In the sixth round at No. 176, the Capitals chose another defenseman: Dru Krebs, 18, of Medicine Hat of the WHL. The Capitals’ final selection came at No. 183, where they grabbed goaltender Chase Clark, 19, from the Jersey Hitmen of the U.S. Premier Hockey League.
Also taken Saturday: Falls Church native Liam Gilmartin, an 18-year-old left wing selected in the sixth round (167th overall) by San Jose. He is the 10th Virginia native selected in draft history.
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