How much did the Capitals boost their goaltending? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Capitals entered the summer with a big question mark, or perhaps two question marks, in net.
And in a bit of a surprise, they moved on from both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. The former was not tendered a qualifying offer and signed with the Maple Leafs, while the latter was traded to the Devils.
In return, the Capitals brought in Darcy Kuemper on a five-year, $5.25 million AAV deal to be their No. 1 starter. And then, just a short while later, they added Charlie Lindgren to a three-year, $1.1 AAV deal.
But what are the Capitals getting in Kuemper and Lindgren? Notably, stability both in the short and long-term.
In the short-term, they’re adding two goalies that should offer more upside in the 2022-23 season than either Samsonov or Vanecek would have.
“I guess it's a little frustrating that I wish one of them would have taken over the No.1 spot,” general manager Brian MacLellan last month. “And it seemed like one or the other were going to, but then they never quite did it and I think we ran out of time to wait for it. I still think they both have good futures in the NHL. They're still young, they're still improving. It was just a situation where we tried it and we don't have more time to stick with them both.”
Vanecek, in his two seasons in Washington, posted a .908 save percentage in each season with a 41-22-10 record. Samsonov, thought to offer the most upside between him and Vanecek, posted just a .896 save percentage last season — the worst of his three years in the NHL.
Kuemper, on the other hand, has posted save percentages of .921, .908, .928, and .925 in his last four seasons (three with the Coyotes and one with the Avalanche). A reigning Stanley Cup champion, he’s the Capitals clear No. 1 goalie entering next season.
With that comes stability, as there won’t be questions about which goaltender the team trusts more.
If Kuemper isn’t the undisputed No. 1, then something has either gone very wrong, or very right with new backup Charlie Lindgren.
"We liked his performance last year,” MacLellan said of Lindgren. “I know it wasn't a lot of games, but we think there is some upside there in goalie so we gave them the three-year term because it was competitive for him and I think there was a lot of teams that were looking at him and he was coming in at a good number and he had good performance last year but limited games. We think he can continue to play well."
Lindgren helps offer upside, as he’s just 28-years-old and is relatively inexperienced in the NHL. Last season, though, he posted a .958 save percentage in five games with the Blues. If he turns into the goaltender the Capitals hope, they’ll have a strong 1-2 punch in net.
Which, long-term, is what the Capitals were after.
For the next three seasons, they’ll have both Kuemper and Lindgren locked in for $6.35 million. That tandem, should it stay together, will take the Capitals through the end of the Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom contracts. With Kuemper’s five year deal, he’s now got the longest remaining contract on the team.
Meaning for better or worse, the Capitals have tied themselves to Kuemper and Lindgren for the short and long-term. When the team set out for two new goalies, that was always going to be the case no matter what the new tandem would be.
Now, they should be improved for next season, as Kuemper and Lindgren could take the team to the end of the current era.