Capitals Notes: Goaltending, Wilson, Laviolette

Today was exit day for the Washington Capitals, and as part of that, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan spoke with the media. The biggest revelation coming from his media appearance regards the team’s goaltending situation, as he shed some light on how the team views their current tandem of goaltenders and what they will take towards the position in the offseason. MacLellan said, as relayed by Samantha Pell of The Washington Post, that the team’s “top priority” regarding their goaltending is to acquire a veteran netminder. MacLellan also added that it’s “possible” that both of the team’s current goals, Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek(who are each eligible to become restricted free agents with arbitration rights) return next season, but that the priority is to add a veteran to the team.

Both Samsonov and Vanecek, who are 25 and 26 years old, respectively, had seasons to forget. For Vanecek, his regular season was solid (42 games played at a .908 save percentage) but he unraveled in the playoffs, not even making it to the end of game two before being pulled for Samsonov. Samsonov, on the flip side, had a poor regular season, posting only an .896 save percentage in 44 games. Although he did better in the playoffs (.912 in five games) he still failed to make the saves required for the Capitals to defeat the Florida Panthers. By virtue of both goals needing a new contract, this offseason the Capitals are afforded the financial flexibility to choose a new direction in net. The Capitals intend on remaining competitive during the remaining years of Alex Ovechkin‘s career, and MacLellan’s statements make it clear that the organization deems a goaltender necessary to give their veteran captain a chance at winning a second Stanley Cup. If their prior courtship of Marc-Andre Fleury Is any indication, it seems MacLellan and the Capitals will be going fishing for a major in addition to their crease this offseason.

Now, for some other notes regarding the Capitals:

  • Tom Wilson, one of the Capitals’ most important forwards, did not play very much in their short playoff run. He scored a goal but suffered a knee injury that MacLellan today said would have cost him the entirety of the Capitals’ playoff run, should they have made it into the next few rounds. Per Tom Gulitti of NHL.com, the team will make a decision in the next few days on whether Wilson needs surgery. Even with a potential surgery in mind, MacLellan did express optimism that Wilson would be ready to play by the start of next season. The Capitals rely on Wilson’s goal-scoring and physicality to win games, so if they want to hit the ground running for next season’s campaign getting Wilson back to full health will be a major priority for the team.
  • This season marks coach Peter Laviolette‘s second behind the bench in Washington, and his combined 80-41-17 record over those two seasons is reflective of how well he has done in getting the most out of the Capitals’ players. But despite that regular-season success, the Capitals have bowed out in the first round in both years of his tenure, and as a result, with Laviolette set to enter the final season of his contract, MacLellan was asked about Laviolette’s future in Washington. Per Gulitti, MacLellan made the point that he wanted to keep conversations regarding Laviolette’s contract situation private, but was complimentary about his coach’s work during this regular season and playoffs. While some more frustrated Capitals fans may want to see a change behind the bench after two straight early playoff exits, it seems that the organization has full faith in Laviolette being the right coach to bring the Capitals their second Stanley Cup.

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