With the Washington Capitals 2011-12 season disappearing into the rearview mirror, we here at DC Pro Sports Report take a look at the Caps roster and how it may change over the summer.
The NHL draft comes up on June 22nd, and free agency on July 1st.
We start with goaltenders.
The 2011-12 season was another breakout season for the Caps' top goaltending prospect, Braden Holtby. The youngster solidified his place as an NHLer with an incredibly impressive playoff performance. After appearing in just seven regular season games, the 22-year-old started all 14 playoff games, winning seven with a sparkling .935 save percentage and lowly 1.95 goals against average. After having toiled away in the AHL with the Hershey Bears for two full seasons, Holtby is ready to step up to the big leagues full-time in 2012-13. He'll compete with Michal Neuvirth for a starting role next year.
A veteran of 108 NHL games, Michal Neuvirth has posted a very respectable .909 save percentage and 2.65 goals against average in 51 wins in his career. One of the most promising youngsters in the league, the 24-year-old native of Czech Republic has become a fan favorite in Washington DC, and for good reason. Having spent parts of four seasons with the Caps, Michal Neuvirth continues to be one of the team's most consistent players. After a slightly disappointing sophomore season, Neuvirth enters next season on par with Braden Holtby, and is set for a great training camp battle with the Canadian.
Although he is far from being a household name in the DC-area, Dany Sabourin annually plays a very important role in the Washington Capitals organization. The unrestricted free agent, who according to his exit interview with the Bears a month ago would very much like to return to Hershey for his third season with the team next year, has been pivotal in ensuring the continued development of Braden Holtby down on the farm. With Holtby undoubtedly graduating this summer, Sabourin will be asked to take on the role of mentoring the Caps' latest young superstar goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, and, though he has only served in a backup role with the big team in recent seasons, the Caps would love to have him back next year.
When the Caps signed Tomas Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5 million contract on July 2nd, it was considered to be the steal of the summer. Forty-eight games and a 2.51 goals against average later, and Vokoun, while a bargain, is considered to have been a disappointment, and it doesn't look as if he'll be back next season. In his exit interview with the media, Vokoun said that "(he) wasn’t planning on being back anyways" and that this had been "the most disappointing season of (his) career."
The Caps have two strong young netminders going into next season, and whichever one is stronger in training camp will be considered to be the starter. Meanwhile, Philipp Grubauer will continue to grow in the minor leagues, and should make his NHL debut next season in an injury scenario. Steffen Søberg will play for Vålerenga in the GET-Ligaen next season, and, while a bright prospect, is still years away from any NHL duty. Tomas Vokoun will not be back.