In a surprising turn of events, the Washington Capitals announced that declined to issue a qualifying offer to restricted free agent netminder Ilya Samsonov. Unless the team and Samsonov can come to a separate agreement before Wednesday at noon, he will hit the open free agency market.
#Caps have extended qualifying offers to forward Damien Riat and defenseman Tobias Geisser. Both players are expected to play in Europe during the 2022-23 season. #Caps elect not to issue a qualifying offer to goaltender Ilya Samsonov.— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 11, 2022
The announcement comes on the heels of the team flipping Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey during the draft for picks, leaving Samsonov as the only goalie under contract with the club. Speaking last week, General Brian MacLellan that they are prioritizing bringing in a new goalie in the free agent pool, and are exploring “all avenues” to find a suitable opening night replacement. “We’ve been trying to change our goaltending up a little bit,” MacLellan said. “This is the first step in doing that. We’ve still got some work to do to fill out our goaltending duo, and some further decisions to make as we go forward here.”
The decision not to offer a qualifying offer to Samsonov runs counter to reports from last week that the team was planning on making qualifying offers to both Samsonov and Vanecek while they sought additional options in free agency.
Caps GM Brian MacLellan said Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek will receive qualifying offers. However, team will still go from there.— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) July 6, 2022
WSH still looking for a veteran goalie through trade market/free agency.
Had the team made a qualifying offer to Samsonov, it would have represented a 10 percent raise of his $2.4 million salary from the 2021-22 season.
According to The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir, the decision came down to Samsonov’s arbitration rights and the determination that his salary would be too high to justify paying him in the $3 million range as a backup.
The decision not to qualify Samsonov was a financial decision. As an RFA (with arbitration rights), the #Caps projected that he'd come in at $3-$3.5 million per, which, in their view, was too much for a backup and not justified based on his performance to date.— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) July 11, 2022
Washington can continue to negotiate with Samsonov and could still find a path to keeping him in Washington should the two sides agree to a deal before noon on Wednesday when the free agency market opens, at which point he will be free to sign with any other team.
Per Sporting News, here are some other significant deadlines ahead of Wednesday’s free agency.
- Monday, July 11, 5 p.m. ET: Qualifying offers due to RFAs
- Tuesday, July 12: RFAs can be contacted for offer sheet discussion
- Tuesday, July 12, 5 p.m. ET: First buyout window closes
- Tuesday, July 12, 11:59 p.m. ET: UFAs lose ability to re-sign for eight years
- Wednesday, July 13, 12 p.m. ET: UFA/RFA signing period opens.
Samsonov, who was the Caps’ first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, posted a 23-12-5 record with a .896% save percentage and 3.02 goals-against average in 44 contests in the 2021-22 regular season.
At present, while minor leaguers Zach Fucale, Hunter Shepard, Clay Stevenson, and Garin Bjorklund are still under contract with the organization, the Capitals have no active goalies on their NHL roster with Hershey netminder Pheonix Copley set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.