When the news came out that Capitals GM Brian MacLellan went over to Russia to speak with Ilya Samsonov, it did create a bit of a buzz. With current back-up goalie Philipp Grubauer being a pending restricted free agent and Samsonov being in the last year of his deal in the KHL, there’s some people were wonder if Grubauer could be traded if there’s a deal pending for the former 1st round pick in Samsonov.
Yet, let’s not go overboard just yet with this, folks.
One of the reasons to go over for MacLellan is to do his due diligence on Samsonov. They used a high pick on him and he hasn’t come over to North America with the exceptions of the prospect camps the Caps hold every year. To go over and gauge the interest in Samsonov’s readiness to come to North America after his contract is up at the end of this season is a responsible move and one GMBM needed to do in order to plan on what to do with his goaltending depth.
The idea of trading Grubauer is out there, but don’t expect it to happen during the season this year. While the market for back-up goalies is high, the need for a playoff team to have a proven commodity in net is always something a successful team needs to have in order to go far. With the Caps in the thick of it in the Metro and Wild Card race, to have someone like Pheonix Copley or Vitek Vanecek back-up Braden Holtby in net would be quite the risk just to trade Grubauer while his value is a bit higher than usual.
With reports saying that Samsonov and the Caps are close to having a verbal agreement (as they can’t sign anything until April 30th), the question is where is going to fit in with their depth in net. There’s going to be many who say that he should back-up Holtby– and there’s a solid chance he could do that. However, there’s also a chance that he’s shaky in his first camp and he could be moved to Hershey to get more tuned up with the North American game. You’d also have to wonder how Copley and Vanecek would react since both have put in time in the minors and in the Caps system only to have a hot-shot kid come in and take a spot that could have been them.
That said– goalie union, players being team guys, all that sort will be talked about if those two get passed over and take it in stride…as much as they can after getting beaten out of a spot.
Of course, as much as Samsonov says he’d want to play in the NHL (or even the AHL), there’s a bigger chance he does something like Evgeny Kuznetsov did and make his money in Russia while he can before coming to North America and dealing with the NHL entry-level contract stuff. Especially with the amount of money to be made if Magnitogorsk were to win the KHL title back-to-back this season. The only possible help for the Caps is that Igor Larionov is the agent for Samsonov, so he could lean more towards Samsonov getting to North America sooner than later and deal with the depth chart stuff as it comes.
At the end of the day, Grubauer shouldn’t (and probably won’t) be traded in-season unless the Caps get a solid return AND have unanimous fate in Copley or Vanecek, while Samsonov isn’t going to be coming to North America until next training camp at the earliest if he signs. Best to just focus on how the Caps can maybe break away from the rest of the Metro field to give their fans some easy breathing moments before the playoff heart attacks.