Alex Ovechkin this, Alex Ovechkin that. I’m sure we’ve written aplenty about him when it comes to his contract extension. But there’s another Russian on the Washington Capitals that potentially needs one too and that’s restricted free agent Ilya Samsonov.
Before the team actually gets a deal done with Samsonov, they must first decide if they want to protect him for the Seattle Expansion Draft. In my upcoming protected list I am protecting Samsonov over Vanecek just because of the experience factor. It is risky either way but that’s just the name of the game and the business.
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So say the expansion draft ends and the Kraken take Vanecek, that would mean the Caps would have to add another goalie to backup Samsonov. If they take a defenseman, like how our contributor Greg predicted it would be Justin Schultz, the Caps can ride out the two young netminders for another season.
What the Caps can do with their limited salary cap space and other needs is extend Samsonov to a two year bridge deal, a prove it sort of thing, that would be in the ballpark of $2 or $2.5 million. If he proves himself, the Caps can give him big money down the line.
Samsonov carried a $1,475,000 cap hit last season (via CapFriendly). He signed that entry level contract back on May 3, 2018 after the Caps drafted him in the first round at 22nd overall in 2015.
Samsonov had a rough 2020-21 stretch that began when the team resumed play last summer as he injured himself in an ATV accident. It got worse when he contracted the COVID-19 virus the following season and was late to a team function later in the year with Evgeny Kuznetsov, putting him back on the COVID protocol list. Still everyone deserves second chances.
Samsonov’s numbers dipped compared to his rookie season. After going 16-6-2 his rookie year with a 2.55 goals against average and a .913 save percentage, Samsonov followed that up with a 13-4-1 record with a 2.69 GAA and save percentage of .902. His career save percentage through two seasons is .908.
Ultimately, Samsonov came back on the ice during the playoffs which was a good sign. It was unfortunate what happened to Vitek Vanecek in Game 1, hurting himself after allowing a goal. Once the Caps and Samsonov ink a deal, he will be ready to show the hockey world why he was drafted by the Caps in the first round six years ago.