With the 2022-23 season just around the corner - and training camp kicking off at the end of this week - we’re taking a look at what the Caps look like heading into this new campaign, get to know some of the new faces, and talk about the questions facing this squad.
Next up: the goalies.
For the first time in a long time... there are none! (At least at the NHL level.)
Of all the moves made this summer, Brian MacLellan’s overhaul of the team’s goaltending was by far the biggest and most newsworthy, particularly with the acquisition of Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper. 32-year-old Kuemper was signed to a surprisingly cap-friendly, if a little lengthy, five-year deal with an AAV of $5.25M at the start of free agency - and comes equipped not only with that shiny Cup pedigree but also some impressive numbers. He’s had a save percentage over .920 in three of the last four seasons (two of which were with the not-very-good Coyotes) as well as 14 shutouts.
Lindgren has a chance to be a surprise addition, as well, and while his resume isn’t as long (and obviously he doesn’t have the Cup - yet) he could provide some nice stability for the Caps on nights that Kuemper needs a break.
Stability is the key word here, as the last two-plus seasons have been anything but stable in net for the Caps, and provided everything goes as planned, they’ll have this tandem for the next three years at just over $6M/year total. Not bad, all things considered.
The Dark Horse
Charlie Lindgren. Sure, a lot is riding on Kuemper having at least some success, but the importance of having a solid backup can’t be underestimated. In a division where every point is going to matter, those nights off for Kuemper can’t be throwaway games. Lindgren doesn’t have a huge body of work from which to draw - all told he’s got just 29 games of NHL experience over six seasons, and has only hit double-digits in a single season once - but he’s been very good in that small sample size.
If he’s able to maintain that pace over 20+ games, the Caps are in very good hands.
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to this new duo. As noted above, Lindgren hasn’t had a ton of NHL experience - so we don’t really know what the Caps are getting in him. Is he capable of carrying a heavier load? Is Kuemper, already 32, going to have enough left in the tank for the next few years? Will his “good on paper”-ness translate to good in actual games?
There’s no question that the Caps have improved the biggest, most glaring issue in their lineup with this new goaltending tandem, and did so by landing arguably the best goalie available on the market. That’s some stellar work by the GM and his team, and there’s a very good chance that it pays off - at least in the short term. Whether they end up regretting the five years for Kuemper remains to be seen, but to land a goalie of that caliber (and at that price), compromises needed to be made, and that’s one that’s easy to swallow. Hard not to be excited about what these guys can do for the team.