Washington Capitals decline to give Ilya Samsonov, 25, qualifying offer, remain ‘open to all avenues’ on team’s next starting goaltender

The Washington Capitals declined to give restricted-free-agent goalie Ilya Samsonov a qualifying offer on Monday, making him an unrestricted free agent who can sign anywhere in the NHL.

It was a shocking move from the Capitals, as general manager Brian MacLellan said last week that Samsonov would be qualified.

The decision means the Capitals are currently without both of their starting goaltenders from last season. Samsonov, 25, played 44 games, going 23-12-5 with a .896 save percentage. Vitek Vanecek played 42 games, going 20-12-6 with a .908 save percentage. The Capitals traded Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils last Friday for draft picks.

“We’ve been trying to change up our goaltending a little bit,” MacLellan said Friday after the deal with New Jersey. “This is the first step in doing that. We’ve still got some work to do and further decisions to make.”

When asked if he was looking for a goaltender to start ahead of Samsonov or be paired with him, MacLellan – whose team lost in the first round last season to the Florida Panthers – would only say that “we’re open to all avenues . “

The decision not to qualify Samsonov was due to the fact that he had arbitration rights and could have come back with a salary north of $ 3 million for next season. Given his performance last season, the Capitals did not feel he was worth that amount.

Samsonov could still re-sign with Washington when the free-agency signing period starts Wednesday. But with both goalies off of their salary cap, the speculation will only grow that Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper, fresh off a Stanley Cup victory, could be headed to the Capitals later this week.

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