In a conference call with reporters on Monday, new Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan gave a glimpse into how he’d like to alter his roster heading into the 2014-15 season.
Among the upgrades he deems necessary is the addition of a backup goaltender to support No. 1 netminder Braden Holtby, who struggled through a season of change under former coach Adam Oates and first-year goalie coach Olie Kolzig.
“I think we need more out of Holtby,” MacLellan said, referring to Holtby’s goals-against swelling from 2.58 in 2012-13 to 2.85 last season as he adapted to Oates’ suggestion he play deeper in his crease.
“I think there was a coaching philosophy change that he wasn’t totally comfortable with. I think it changed a little bit throughout the season, so I think circumstances might have affected his play throughout last year.”
MacLellan said Holtby deserves the chance to begin the season as the Caps’ No. 1 goalie and that Philipp Grubauer, who was impressive during a midseason callup that lasted six weeks and 16 games, would be better served as the No. 1 goalie with the AHL Hershey Bears.
“My plan as of now would be to go with Hotby as our No. 1,” MacLellan said, “and then find a backup goaltender.”
Holtby, 24, is entering the final year of a two-year contract that carries a cap hit of $1.85 million, a reasonable price for a starting NHL goalie.
Led by Ryan Miller and Marty Brodeur, here’s a list of NHL goaltenders who will become unrestricted free agents on July 1. From that list (and one not on it), here are some who may interest the Capitals:
Age: 37 (turns 38 on July 2)
Contract status: UFA ($2 million last season)
Why he fits: Vokoun spent parts of eight seasons playing under head coach Barry Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn when all three were in Nashville from 1998 to 2007. Last year Vokoun took the starting job away from Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2013 playoffs (going 6-5 with a 2.01 GAA and .933 save percentage), but when a blood clot was discovered in his pelvic area during training camp last season, he required surgery and missed all of the regular season. Vokoun got into two rehab starts for the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the end of the regular season and was added to the Penguins’ playoff roster. Vokoun’s agent, Allan Walsh, said Vokoun is 100-percent committed to playing again next season. If that’s true, he’d likely come back to Washington at a reasonable price.
Contract status: UFA ($4.5 million last season)
Why he fits: Hiller is a bit of an oddity as a right-handed goalie but is coming off a weird season in Anaheim. He went 29-13-7 in 50 appearances with the Ducks, including a 14-game win streak. But he was used sparingly down the stretch and lost is job to Frederik Andersen and then rookie John Gibson in the playoffs. After seven seasons in Anaheim, Hiller will be looking for a fresh start and would certainly compete with Holtby for playing time.
Contract status: UFA ($1.5 million last season)
Why he fits: In 27 games as a backup behind Jimmy Howard in Detroit, Gustavsson went 16-5-4 with a 2.63 GAA and .907 save perentage. Korn would probably love to get his hands on the 6-foot-3 Swede and see if he can get him to challenge Holtby.
Contract Status: UFA ($600,000 last season)
Why he fits: When you have Tuukka Rask in front of you, it’s pretty tough to establish yourself as an NHL goalie. However, Johnson was impressive in 27 appearances for the Bruins last season, going 17-4-3 with a 2.10 GAA and .925 save percentage. If the Bruins don’t re-sign him, the Caps might be willing to give him a shot as a goalie who could test Holtby.
Contract status: 3 years, $11.7 million remaining
Why he fits: If the Winnipeg Jets decide to buy out Pavelec -- and many believe they should -- the Caps might be interested in signing the Czech at a discounted rate. However, buyers beware: In his seven seasons in the NHL, Pavelec has had a winning record just twice and ranks among the NHL’as worst starters with a career GAA of 2.96 and .906 save percentage.
What’s your take? Should the Caps go in a different direction and go after an established goalie like Martin Brodeur, Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov, Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery, Jean-Sébastien Giguère or Nikolai Khabibulin?