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Early Playoff Exit Could Have The Washington Capitals Shopping For A Goaltender

The Washington Capitals have failed to advance past the opening round of the playoffs since 2018, and now the team might need to look for a reliable starting goaltender.
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Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, the Washington Capitals have failed to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Their latest exit – at the hands of the Florida Panthers – could force general manager Brian MacLellan to search for a reliable starting goaltender in the offseason.

ESPN.com's Greg Wyshynski suggested consistency was an issue for the Capitals goalie tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek, 26, had a solid regular season and a lousy playoffs while the 25-year-old Samsonov was the opposite. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents this summer with arbitration rights.

The Athletic's Tarik El-Bashir also wondered what MacLellan's plan will be between the pipes for next season. He didn't place the sole blame for the Capitals' latest postseason disappointment on Vanecek and Samsonov but pointed out that the duo failed to make enough timely saves when it counted throughout this season.

MacLellan will find limited options via this summer's free-agent market. Colorado's Darcy Kuemper and Toronto's Jack Campbell are among the best of the bunch but could be re-signed by their current clubs. The Minnesota Wild's Marc-Andre Fleury could be available but he spurned a trade to the Capitals in March and could feel the same way in the off-season.

The trade market could offer up some better options. El-Bashir cited the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues as three clubs that could be willing to move a goalie.

Salary-cap space, however, will be an issue for the Capitals. Cap Friendly indicates they have $73.5 million invested in 17 players for 2022-23. Any trade for a goalie could involve a dollar-in, dollar-out scenario to ensure sufficient cap space to complete the remainder of the roster.

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