NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Washington Capitals.
1. Will Henrik Lundqvist or Ilya Samsonov be the No. 1 goalie?
The Capitals plan to rely on each goalie during what could be a compacted regular season, but coach Peter Laviolette said the starter will be determined during a training camp competition.
“I don’t think that it’s right to come out and say, ‘This guy is going to start’ or ‘That guy is going to start,'” Laviolette said. “There’s going to be a training camp. I feel fortunate that I’ve got two really good goaltenders: a veteran goaltender like Lundqvist, who’s been through the wars and been through the battles and has experienced success, and then a really young, strong talent like Samsonov to come in and compete and try to grab the crease and make it his.”
Samsonov was 16-6-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and one shutout as an NHL rookie last season and the 23-year-old is the heir apparent to Washington’s No. 1 job after longtime starter Braden Holtby signed a two-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 9. Lundqvist, who was 10-12-3 with a 3.16 GAA, .905 save percentage and one shutout with the New York Rangers last season, signed a one-year contract with the Capitals on Oct. 9 to compete with Samsonov and help groom him.
The 38-year-old played 15 seasons for the Rangers before they bought out the final season of his contract Sept. 30.
2. When will Alex Ovechkin sign a contract extension?
The 35-year-old forward is entering the final season of a 13-year contract he signed in 2008 and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Washington captain and general manager Brian MacLellan had an initial discussion about an extension in August after the Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and agreed to wait to resume talks until Ovechkin returns for training camp.
Ovechkin said in an interview with Russian Television International last month that he wants to play his entire NHL career with Washington. He also mentioned wanting to play for Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League before he retires but said he could play, “two, three, four years, maybe five” more seasons with the Capitals.
Though no deal is certain until it’s done, it appears likely Ovechkin eventually will re-sign with Washington after taking the necessary time to negotiate the terms.
3. Will the Capitals add a forward before the season starts?
A wing to provide scoring depth from the third line is Washington’s biggest remaining need after signing Lundqvist and shoring up its defensemen by signing Justin Schultz to a two-year contract on Oct. 9 and Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one-year contract on Oct. 10. But Washington has acknowledged the NHL salary cap remaining at $81.5 million hasn’t left it with much space or roster flexibility, so the Capitals likely will have to trade someone to add a player.
Doing that won’t be easy with many teams in a similar salary cap bind. It might require trading a draft pick or a prospect to get one of the few teams with salary cap space to take on a player with an unwanted contract.