One of the many topics touched on by GM Brian MacLellan during his media scrum on breakdown day was the team’s goaltending situation. He admitted that though both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov showed how good they were at times, neither showed consistently how great they could be - and that the first thing he and his staff would work on this offseason was how to proceed in net.
While he did admit that it’s possible both Vanecek and Samsonov return next season, it’s hard to see MacLellan going back to that duo a third time. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who the Capitals could add to form a tandem with one of their young kids.
First, let’s take a look in the free agency pool and see if there is anything worth picking up.
We can ignore pending UFA Marc-Andre Fleury, as he’s already made it known he doesn’t want to play for the rival of his former team (notably a former team that literally paid off an expansion team to take him off their hands, but whatever).
Then there are guys like Mikko Koskinen, Thomas Greiss, Joonas Korpisalo, Martin Jones, David Rittch and the always beloved Braden Holtby, who are going to be available but may not exactly be starter-worthy at this time. If the point of adding a goalie is to have a backup plan for one of their young guys, then they need someone who can not just back up but be the starter if needed - so let’s explore some starter-worthy options:
Campbell comes from a good draft pedigree, having been selected 11th overall back in 2010, but he didn’t get his first full season until he was 27. He had a fantastic two years in LA with a .927sv% and a +16.1GSAA in 36 games. But the following season in 2019-2020 he split time between LA and Toronto, posting a .904sv% and -4.2GSAA in 26 games. But he did pick it back up over the last two seasons with Toronto, posting a .916sv% and +17.7GSAA in 71 games.
Focusing on this last season, he got off to a tear, becoming one of the best goalies in the league over the first three months. He had a .939sv% and 1.86GAA on January 1st, but struggled over the next 16 games posting a .876sv% and 3.87GAA. He did suffer a rib injury in February which didn’t help. They eventually side lined him but when he came back he finished the season strong with a .915sv% and +4.81GSAA, according to NatStatTrack. Though, his playoffs weren’t amazing with a 0.897sv% and -1.1GSAA.
He certainly has his peak and valleys but seems like above all he would be a good starter. The issue is it’s hard to see Toronto letting him walk. They currently don’t have anything behind him ready to take the drivers seat. So unless they go a different route, Jack probably returns to the blue and white.
Kuemper was never drafted but that didn’t stop him from being a top goalie the last five years. He didn’t get off to a great start in the beginning of his career with Minnesota spending his first five years there. But since he left the Wild, over the last five seasons between LA, Arizona, and Colorado he’s been stellar. In 193 games he has a .921sv% and a +70.3GSAA.
He was acquired over the summer by the Avalanche for a haul. He got off to a slow start but got into a groove and had a great season posting .921sv% and a +25.1GSAA. He’s currently in the playoffs and with the Avalanche being a Cup favorites, he could hit UFA this summer as the top goalie.
The issue with him is he just turn 32 and has had some injury issues, at least when he was in Arizona. If the Caps are really going for it hard the next four years they would be taking a chance on a vet that doesn’t have the best health history. But the Capitals seem to really like Vanecek and Samsonov, just maybe not together. They might not care if they get a goalie that can’t play a full season. There’s also an issue of cost. If Kuemper wins the Cup he could get more than he’s worth. And Colorado might not ever let him walk, though they will be up against the cap with their stacked team.
Husso is a name that took the league by storm this season. In 40 games with the St. Louis Blue he put up a .919sv% and +15GSAA. For awhile he dethroned Stanley Cup winning hero Jordan Binnington. Husso started the playoffs for the Blues and had a shutout first game. The next two games he did get lit up though leading to Binnington to get back into the net.
Husso has always been kind of up and down in his stats. When he first got to the AHL in the 2016-2017 season this is how his seasons went after: .920sv%, .922sv%, but then .871sv% and .909sv%. Then his rookie season in the NHL last season didn’t go well with a .893sv% and a -6.6GSAA in 17 games. But then this season, as shown above, he was fantastic, though eventually pulled in the playoffs and put back in putting up bleh results.
Husso isn’t technically a veteran at the age of 27 and just 57 games played, and if the Caps are looking for someone with more consistent experience, he probably doesn’t fit the bill. But the positives with Husso is he’s young, will most likely be cheap, and has the potential to be a very good starter as he showed this season. But it would be a gamble for Caps to take and it’s probably a smart assumption they are done taking gambles in net.
Comrie comes from some good draft stock, being selected in 59th overall in 2013. He has played everywhere he has gone but for some reason has never stuck in the NHL. His NHL stats before this season weren’t good but he also played a total of nine games over five seasons, never playing more than three games in one season. That looks like he was never really given a NHL chance... until this season.
Winnipeg has arguably the best goalie in the league with Connor Hellebuyck and Comrie was finally given a chance to get some NHL games by backing up Connor. He did very well in his 19 games, posting a .920sv% and a +7.2GSAA. When you consider how bad the Jets are defensively, those are some stellar numbers.
But the question still looms like with Husso: is he this good or was it just a nice run he went on? Getting Comrie will cost very little against the cap, probably lowest for all goalies on this list. He’s also the youngest goalie on this list. So if he works out your getting a very young, very cheap goalie that will help the Capitals fill in holes elsewhere on the money they will be saving on their tandem.
Tune in later this week for a look at who the Caps could potentially bring in via trade...