The Washington Capitals have signed 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov to a three-year entry-level contract on Friday. The 21 year old goaltender was selected by the Capitals in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has excelled in the KHL since then. He has spent the past three seasons with Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL.
He posted a 12-9-1 record with Magnitogorsk this season with a .926 save percentage and a 2.31 goals-against average. The young goalie dominated in the Russian league in 2016-17, posting a 15-3-5 record with a .936 save percentage and a 2.13 GAA. His save percentage sat a .915 or higher in each of his past three seasons with the KHL club.
Samsonov is considered one of the most talented goaltending prospects not currently playing in the NHL. The young netminder met with Caps general manager Brian MacLellan in December, which had pushed TSN’s Bob McKenzie to tweet that it was “reasonably safe to believe” Samsonov will be on an NHL contract next season. McKenzie's TSN colleague, Director of Scouting Craig Button, ranked Samsonov as the 10th best NHL-affiliated prospect in his February rankings.
For now, the Caps will continue to trust the goaltending duo of Braden Holtby and Philip Grubauer as they continue their playoff run, as their second round series is tied 2-2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Samsonov is poised to join the team, and its now large group of star netminders in Washington next season.
Samsonov's entry-level deal holds an average annual value of $925,000.
The Capitals already have backup Philipp Gubauer under contract for the backup position and the 26 year old has proven himself to be capable of taking on a heavier workload. The Rosenheim, Germany native has started 32 games for the Caps this season earning 13 wins and putting up a stellar 2.35 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
There was already controversy in Washington this season in between the pipes, especially when the playoffs started and head coach Barry Trotz decided to start Grubauer in net over Holtby. However, Holtby has been the started since Game 3 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It is surprising that Washington won't have its former Vezina and Jennings Trophy winner in net to begin the postseason, but imagine if the addition of Samsonov pushes Holtby or Grubauer out the door...