MacLellan reiterated Friday that the 23-year-old Russian should be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season.
With Samsonov not in the bubble, the Capitals have three goaltenders: starter Braden Holtby, Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley. Vanecek, who played the third period of the team’s 3-2 exhibition victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, has been told he is the team’s backup goaltender for the postseason.
“Vitek, he’s earned a chance to play some games … the exhibition game, that was the first chance we’ve had to really see him in game action,” MacLellan said. “Got put in a difficult situation at 5 on 3 right away, made some good saves, looked confident, looked aggressive, so he made a really good showing, and I think everybody’s pretty optimistic about him right now.”
Holtby, a pending unrestricted free agent, is the unwavering starter, and the Capitals will rely on him for their postseason run. Keeping Holtby on the team next year could prove difficult, though, and the flat salary cap does the Capitals no favors.
“We’ve been a cap team,” MacLellan said. “We did our projections last season and it was going to be anywhere from $83 to 88 million and it comes in at $81.5. Even last season when it came in a little under what we projected it to be, you have to make some difficult decisions based on that. Planning going up to those projections is based on probably the low end of the projection, and then it ends up coming in lower, it’s a hard thing to manage. But we’ll do the best we can.”
Defenseman Brenden Dillon, another pending free agent, has expressed he likes the fit with Washington and wants to remain with the Capitals. MacLellan said Friday he has been speaking to Dillon’s representatives “pretty consistently” since the team acquired the 29-year-old in mid-February. MacLellan said he will continue to have discussions and “see if we can work something out in the end here.”
Regarding a possible extension with captain Alex Ovechkin, who will be on the final year of his 13-year, $124 million contract next season, MacLellan said the team will wait until after the playoff to make any decisions.
“I think it’s constantly been changing the whole year,” MacLellan said. “I don’t think anybody could have predicted where we’re at right now.”
Friday was the first time MacLellan spoke to reporters since May 29, when there were still questions regarding the NHL’s restart. Now, in the bubble as a member of the team’s 52-man traveling party to Toronto, MacLellan said he thinks the league did a “great job” at organizing everything and the protocols are “pretty buttoned up.”
“We’re being restricted in areas we can go to at certain times,” MacLellan said. “The practice schedule, to get this many teams in here and have them practicing at same rink and playing games is a big task, and it’s gone pretty smoothly so far.”
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