The Washington Capitals are in need of goaltending help. Does this team have the worst goaltending in the league? No. I don’t think that’s even close to being the case. Yet the team does have two younger goalies and neither of those guys have been able to seize the opportunity and claim the starters job.
Both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have had two seasons, or a full season and half of another, to prove that they can be “the guy”. Both have had impressive stretches, both have had stretches where you question their ability to be a full time starter.
Which leads us to now. The summer of 2022 and free agency not far off in the distance.
To me, it would seem to be unwise to go into the 2022-23 season with the same two goalies. You have tried both guys, neither has grabbed the ball and ran with it. Pick one of them and have them fight it out with a new goaltender. You then try to trade the other one.
But who is the new guy? There are options. None of them are that great to be honest. The best option in name is a 37-year-old who have already said he wouldn’t come to D.C. That guy being Marc-Andre Fleury. The other guy a lot of people will probably look at is Darcy Kuemper. As we speak just won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.
Someone I think a lot of people are looking at is Jack Campbell. Campbell is now 30-years-old, he will turn 31 in the middle of next season. He does not have a ton of miles on him having played just 135 regular season games. He also really only has one full year of being an NHL starter under his belt. That was last season.
Last season he put up a 2.64 GAA with a .914 save percentage and had 5 shutouts. Following a very good start he was selected to his first all-star game. He followed that season up by having a 3.15 GAA and a .897 save percentage in the playoffs. He had one shutout in the seven game series vs Tampa Bay.
I’ll be honest. I watched that series vs. Tampa. He looked better than his numbers would tell you.
Campbell has been my number one target for the Capitals this off-season. He is probably the best goalie on the market this summer. If you want to say Kuemper, I wouldn’t put up much of an argument. Kuemper is a little older and I would guess be a little more expensive thanks to the run he is currently on. If he wants to leave the Avalanche this summer after potentially getting a ring, why not go and get your money at the same time.
Campbell will be a little cheaper if I had to guess and is just a tad younger. He is coming off a very good season and could be a very good pick up for the Capitals.
But I think we need to look at the downside to signing Campbell as well.
First, he had a very good season. He is Toronto’s number one goalie. Why do they seem willing to let him go? Shouldn’t that be a big red flag right off the bat?
If you are someone who listens to the Steve Dangle podcast, then you probably know more about the Maple Leafs than you care to know. The guys on that show also seem to be ready, at least somewhat, to let go of the guy Leafs fans call “Soup”. Why?
Campbell had a terrific start to last season. In his first twenty games he had a 1.78 GAA with a .942 save percentage. He had three of his five shutouts in the time. That is what got him an invite to the all-star game.
He was the top goaltender in the game in the early going. Among the obvious starters in the NHL he had the best GAA, the best save percentage and the best Goals Saved Above Average in the league. He was better than Igor Shesterkin who would eventually win the Vezina Trophy. He was better than Andrei Vasilevskiy and he was better than Jacob Markstrom who was very good in the early going as well.
He was the best of the best in the first twenty games of his year. After that, his numbers take a pretty big dive.
After his great first twenty games of the season his next and final twenty-nine of the year were not good. His GAA was 3.24 his save percentage was .895 and his GSAA was -8.78. All of those numbers obviously ranking towards the bottom of the 51 goalies to play 1,000 or more minutes from the 5th of December and on.
Here are Vanecek’s and Samsonov’s numbers in that time to compare.
First is Vanecek.
Good news bad news. The good news is you would be upgrading your goalie tandem. The bad news is, if you sign Campbell to a bigger contract are you even getting a guaranteed starter?
If you sign Campbell this summer you could easily be signing yet another Vanecek or Samsonov. A guy who does not have a lot of NHL experience. Someone who has even less full time starter experience. And based on his numbers last season could be an up and down kind of player. Do the Capitals really need another goalie who has those traits?
I still think Jack Campbell is probably the prize of the goalie market this summer. I think depending on where he goes he could be very good. If he signs a big contract with a bad team we will probably be looking back and criticizing the the team and contract.
But! If he signs with a good team on a somewhat bigger contract, it could be a steal. If Campbell signs with a team that is pretty good defensively maybe he can help take the team far in the playoffs.
Last season the Capitals were a top half team in terms of defensive stats. The stats I looked at here were shots attempts against (13th), scoring chances against (13th) and high danger attempts allowed (12th).
Is Campbell the right goalie for the Capitals? In terms of a goalie tandem I think he would be a good signing. But if the Capitals want a bonafide starter I’m not sure you are exactly getting that with “Soup”.
When you look at Campbell’s last season and how up and down it was you might just be getting another Vanecek or Samsonov, maybe a little bit better. Should the Caps go out and throw some money at that?