The New Jersey Devils are next to ride the goaltending carousel, acquiring Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals. They will also receive pick No. 46 in today’s draft, while sending picks No. 37 and 70 to the Capitals.
For a little bit of draft capital, the Devils have found an answer in net, or at least someone to potentially pair with Mackenzie Blackwood as he looks to get his career back on track. Like Ville Husso when he was traded earlier today, Vanecek is without a contract for next season and will need to work out a new deal with New Jersey in the coming days. A significant difference, however, is that he is a restricted free agent that can’t get to the open market if the Devils extend him a qualifying offer (which they will).
That qualifying offer only needs to be $787,500 but Vanecek’s NHL history to this point would certainly land him more than that in arbitration. Since entering the league in 2020, the 26-year-old netminder has posted a .908 save percentage in 79 games, going 41-22-10 in the process. At his age, any multi-year extension would be buying out UFA seasons, thus making a deal more expensive.
Despite only ever playing for the Capitals, this actually isn’t the first time Vanecek has been traded. He was also the Seattle Kraken’s expansion selection, only to be traded back to Washington last summer. By moving him now, the team has recouped at least part of the value they had to give up in that trade, while also opening a spot for a goaltending upgrade.
Though Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan admitted that Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov would both get qualifying offers, it was clear that he wanted to upgrade the position in some fashion. A plan for that appears to be in place; the only question will now be whether Samsonov is also moved out, or if he partners with a newcomer for next season.