If Braden Holtby wants to improve his free agent stock, here’s his chance. Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told reporters today including Samantha Pell of the Washington Post that Ilya Samsonov suffered an off-ice injury in Russia during the pause and failed his physical after returning to North America. Pell tweets that Samsonov “should be good to go for the start of next season.”
An injury to Samsonov makes a tough decision for the team as to who will start in their round-robin. Holtby obviously has the experience and was the goaltender who helped carry the team to a Stanley Cup in 2018, but is also coming off his worst season as a professional. The 30-year old goaltender posted just an .897 save percentage in 48 appearances, seeing his goals-against average balloon to 3.11.
That kind of performance paled in comparison to the .913 save percentage that Samsonov recorded in his first year in the NHL, when he went 16-6-2 in 26 appearances. The 23-year old netminder was simply better than Holtby and likely would have pushed for a chance to take the net in the playoffs.
This week in their exhibition game, the Capitals had Vitek Vanacek serve as the backup for Holtby but they also have Pheonix Copley who played 27 games for them in 2018-19. They’ll have options should Holtby struggle, but not ones quite as exciting as Samsonov.