The 24-year-old was 13-4-1 with a 2.69 goals against average and a .902 save percentage in 19 games (18 starts) last season. He was 0-3 with a 2.99 goals against average and an .899 save percentage in three playoff games.
He spent time on the NHL’s coronavirus list twice, including a six-week stint early in the season and a two-week period that bled into the first round of the playoffs. He suffered multiple covid-19 symptoms when he first tested positive in January, which slowed his return midseason.
With Samsonov out, then-rookie goaltender Vitek Vanecek was thrust into the starting role after entering the year as the team’s No. 3 option on the depth chart. He was a key piece in the Capitals’ campaign and surpassed expectations. He was the starting goalie for the postseason before suffering an injury in the opening game.
He was briefly no longer part of the Capitals’ organization after he was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft July 21. Each team was allowed to protect only one goaltender in the draft, and Vanecek wasn’t the clear No. 1 moving forward. Washington chose to protect Samsonov.
However, after Vanecek was selected by Seattle, it left a gaping hole in the Capitals’ projected goalie tandem, and it turned out the best replacement for Vanecek as the team’s backup goalie was Vanecek himself. The Capitals dealt a 2023 second-round draft pick to reacquire Vanecek from Seattle on July 28 — the first day of free agency.
The draft pick Washington sent to Seattle was a second-rounder the Capitals acquired from Winnipeg when it traded defenseman Brenden Dillon.
The deal bringing Vanecek back to Washington was made the same day Seattle signed goaltender Philipp Grubauer to a six-year contract with an average annual value of $5.9 million.
Grubauer’s signing put him atop the goalie depth chart in Seattle, with Chris Driedger presumed to fill the No. 2 role. The Kraken selected Driedger, who was an unrestricted free agent, in the expansion draft from Florida and signed him to a three-year deal. That would have left Vanecek as the Kraken’s No. 3, the same spot he found himself in last season in Washington before he ascended to No. 1.
Vanecek and Samsonov are slated to be the Capitals’ goalie tandem heading into next season — barring any additional moves. The Capitals’ season opener is Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena.
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