In an unexpected move, the Washington Capitals chose not to tender a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Ilya Samsonov before Monday’s 5 PM deadline.
The move would have allowed the Capitals to keep the rights of the talented Russian goaltender who was their first-round pick in 2015. Now, if the two sides don’t hammer out a deal before Wednesday at noon, Samsonov will become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any other team. The Capitals would get no compensation in return.
#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
A qualifying offer would have been a 10 percent raise of Samsonov’s 2021-22 salary ($2.4 million).
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir explained the team’s side. Samsonov was set to be the team’s backup next season and the front office was unwilling to pay the $3 to $3.5 million salary Samsonov would have likely received in arbitration.
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
Samsonov sported career lows in save percentage (.896) and GAA (3.29) during a regular season in which he made 39 starts. Per MoneyPuck, the young Russian also saved 12.1 goals fewer than expected which placed him firmly in the bottom ten leaguewide among goaltenders with at least 25 appearances.
If Samsonov moves on, the team internally has minor league goaltender Zach Fucale under contract for next season ($750k cap hit). The Capitals have also been heavily rumored to be after 2022 Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper as their starter next season.
It appears Samsonov stayed in the area and did not return to Russia like the other team’s stars. Alex Alexeyev posted a photo of the two fishing together on his Instagram Story over the weekend.
Heading into next season, the Capitals now have 0 NHL goaltenders under contract after trading Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils a day before his wedding. When Brian MacLellan was asked if he preferred Samsonov to Vanecek, MacLellan opted to not give a public vote of confidence to the Russian netminder.
“I didn’t,” he said. “We were trying to move one of them and we ended up moving Vanecek. It just worked out. Supply and demand.”
The Capitals did qualify 2016 fourth-round pick, Damien Riat, and 2017 fourth-round pick, Tobias Geisser. Riat is signed with Lausanne HC of the Swiss National League while Geisser is signed to the National League’s EV Zug.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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