After a long, illustrious career with the Seattle Kraken, Vitek Vanecek has returned to where his career began, the Washington Capitals. Okay, it was 7 days. But still, this is big news! The Capitals traded a 2023 second-round draft pick to the Kraken in exchange for the 25-year old Czech netminder. The pick was acquired just yesterday in the trade that sent Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets.
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With the goalie free-agent market looking slim, Vanecek was the best fit for the Capitals. Vanecek is affordable, carrying a cap hit of only $716,667, and posted a 21-10-4 record with a .908 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.69 as he became the Capitals’ number one netminder last season.
There was speculation that the Capitals would keep their backup goaltending options in-house and give Zachary Fucale and Phoenix Copely a chance to compete for the backup position. Fucale impressed last season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, posting a 9-2-0 record, a .932 save percentage, and a goals against average of 1.80. Fucale has no NHL experience and hasn’t seen a ton of success at the AHL level aside from last season.
Copley put up decent numbers at the NHL level in 2018-2019 as a backup but struggled in Hershey last season. Despite a 10-4-1 record and a goals against average of 2.66, Copley had a save percentage of only .896. Neither would be great number two options in-net for a team expecting to compete for another Stanley Cup in the Alex Ovechkin era.
With Vanecek back, the Capitals appear to have a strong 1A and 1B tandem in-net for the upcoming 2021-2022 season. What was a big question mark for the Caps seems to be taking shape nicely as the team still has Fucale and Copley under contract in addition to one of the most talented young tandems in the NHL.