Among Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan's offseason priorities is to find a veteran goaltender to back up incumbent starter Braden Holtby.
In a conference call Monday, MacLellan said that he would prefer rookie Philipp Grubauer, who appeared in 17 games last season and whose midseason emergence created a three-man logjam, to continue his development with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
That leaves MacLellan with a hole to fill behind Holtby.
“I think we can get more out of Holtby,” MacLellan said. “My plan would be as of now to go with Holtby as our No. 1 and find him a backup goaltender."
MacLellan's assertion is certainly a vote of confidence for Holtby, whose struggles last season have been widely recounted. The 24-year-old was asked by former coach Adam Oates and goaltending coach Olie Kolzig to curb his trademark aggressiveness in favor of a more controlled approach. It was a transition that clashed with Holtby's natural instincts and led to an up-and-down season.
“I think there was [a] coaching philosophy change that he wasn’t totally comfortable with,” MacLellan said. “I think it changed a little bit throughout the season. Circumstances might have affected his play throughout last year.”
There are a wide array of free-agent goaltenders available this summer, from established starters to serviceable backups.
One of the more intriguing options is Pittsburgh Penguins and former Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who missed all of last season with a blood clot in his pelvis but is "100 percent committed" to continuing his career, according to agent Allan Walsh.
If Vokoun were to return to Washington, then he would be reunited with coach Barry Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn, both of whom he played under for eight seasons with the Nashville Predators.
Speaking of Korn, MacLellan said Monday that nothing has been finalized between the coach and the Capitals, but that he expects Korn to join the organization. (For what it is worth, Korn has changed his Twitter handle from "@mitchkornpreds" to "@mitchkorncaps.")
Reports last week indicated that Korn would join Trotz in Washington after working together since Nashville's inception.
As for Kolzig, the Capitals intend to keep him in a yet-to-be-determined capacity, one that will allow for more freedom to spend time with his family. That could mean a part-time role similar to what he assumed when he originally returned to the Capitals in 2011, periodically working with goaltenders at all levels of the organization.
“We’re in the process of discussing with Olie the best way we can move forward," MacLellan said. "Hopefully he can continue to work for our organization while still filling his family responsibilities, obligations. That’s going to be an ongoing discussion.”
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