Washington Capitals: Three Takeaways From Ilya Samsonov’s Rookie Season

Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Braden Holtby is on borrowed time in D.C.

As fun and exciting as it is to watch a young and up and coming player, you also realize there is only so much room on a team. This is especially true for goalies where there are only two spots open, and only one gets to be the everyday starter.

You likely don’t need me telling you all this, but Holtby has been terrific in Washington. In his time in Washington, Holtby has won a Vezina trophy as the best goaltender in the league (in 2016), a Jennings Trophy in 2017, won 48 games in a single season, tied for the most in a single season with Martin Brodeur, and of course backstopped the Capitals to a Stanley Cup in 2018. What else needs to be said to convince someone how great he’s been for the Caps.

But, as we mentioned before, we live in a salary cap world. You can’t fit everyone. Going into this season everyone knew the Caps were going to have trouble, especially fitting in Nicklas Backstrom who needed an extension as well as extending Holtby.

Then two things happened that made Holtby’s future in D.C. especially bleak. Backstrom signed his extension on January 14th, getting an annual bump from $6.7 a year to $9.2 a year. Then, as we’re discussing here today, Samsonov was playing very well.

You have to find some way to trim salary. Samsonov has shown he belongs in the NHL, he’s seven or eight years younger, he has a ton of potential, and oh yes, he’ll be much cheaper for the next few seasons. That’s not a good recipe for the former Vezina winner.

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Holtby will always be a legend in Washington, but his reign is just about over. It’s just about Samsonov’s time. Thanks to his good season this year, it could be much earlier than any of us expected.