In a shocking move, the Washington Capitals placed Pheonix Copley on waivers Wednesday. Copley signed a three-year contract last season to keep him in DC until 2022.
“It was a really difficult decision for us organizationally,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “To have to put Copley on waivers was something organizationally, that we had to do and with where we’re at in today’s cap world, it was a tough one, especially with his work ethic, who he is as a person, how good he is in our locker room. It was a real tough day to inform him yesterday that he wasn’t coming on this trip and ultimately putting him on waivers.”
The move indicates, either due to the salary cap or the longterm future of the team, that the Capitals will go with Ilya Samsonov as the team’s backup goaltender moving forward where he continue his rapid development. The aggressive move also suggests Braden Holtby’s future with the team beyond this season is in question. Holtby is a UFA at season’s end and is likely due a contract with an annual average salary of around $10 million.
The Capitals have placed Pheonix Copley on waivers.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) October 2, 2019
Copley’s cap hit was $1.1 million while Samsonov, who is still on his entry-level deal, makes $925k.
In hindsight, Reirden foreshadowed this move before the team’s final preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals held on to three goaltenders for the game, which is unusual for the Capitals that late in the preseason, likely so they could put Copley on waivers at a strategic time.
“Like I said, three goalies are here and the decision has not been made,” Reirden said. He added that the chances the Caps keep three goalies to start the year are “not very high.”
The 22-year-old Samsonov impressed during Training Camp and had a 20-14-2 record with the Hersey Bears last season, posting a 2.70 GAA.
Copley was sturdy and reliable during his time in Washington last season as a backup, finishing the 2018-19 season with a 16-7 record with a 2.90 GAA and .905 save percentage.
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