New Jersey Devils Acquire Vitek Vanecek

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The Washington Capitals have traded restricted free-agent goaltender Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils.

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Vitek Vanecek Traded

The Capitals also send pick 46 in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft to the Devils for picks 37 and 70 in the 2022 Draft.

Vitek Vanecek was drafted by the Capitals in 2014, 39th overall. When he came to North America two years later, he spent his first season in the ECHL, then four years working in AHL Hershey before his Washington debut. His contract was a bargain-basement one, lasting three years at $717K per. Samsonov’s one-year, one-way deal at just $2 million showed that the team expected the two to fight for their future roles.

The Capitals decided to go with a two-headed beast in Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov last season. Neither had 50 games of NHL experience, but Vanecek got some Calder Trophy attention in 2020-21, coming sixth in voting. Vanecek repeated his rookie numbers, hitting a .908 save percentage and a marginally better 2.67 goals-against average. He equalled Samsonov’s 39 starts, though was clearly the backup once the playoffs opened.

The 2021-22 NHL season wasn’t an easy one for goaltenders around the league. The league-wide goals-against average of 2.92 per game is the highest since 2005-06. Add the empty-net goals and you need to go into the last century to find the equivalent 3.14 goals per game. It was no easier for Washington specifically. Not because of their finish relative to the rest of the league – 12th out of 32 teams – but because they thought their goaltending was settled.

What This Means

Vanecek is a restricted free agent so the Devils will need to sign him. In making this deal, however, that has to be part of the plan for the Devils. Despite having ok numbers in Washington in a platoon situation, the Caps have decided to move on. The surprise appearance of Zachary Fucale – the only goaltender signed at the end of 2021-22 – made Vanecek expendable in Washington. Fucale’s numbers are by far the best of the three in his four appearances, but he also debuted last year at 27 years old. Washington clearly has plans to upgrade their goaltending position in the off-season and it has started with trading Vanecek.

Once he signs, will have an opportunity to battle with Mackenzie Blackwood for the Devils number one job. The Devils needed to add to their goalie depth as well with Andrew Hammond and  John Gillies unrestricted free agents. The Devils are hoping to make a leap this year with young stars Nico Hiesher and Jack Hughes leading the way. Still, Vanecek adds to a list of Devils RFA that includes Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood.