“Super excited for the new opportunity,” Kuemper said Wednesday in a video conference call. “This is a team that can win it. That’s always a lot of fun to be a part of. Really looking forward to getting started. It’s going to be a short summer, but I can’t wait to get down there and meet the guys.”
Colorado could have made an effort to keep Kuemper, but opted to go a different direction in net, trading to form New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev last week. The Avalanche also re-signed several free agents to lucrative deals to keep its core intact.
Kuemper did not disclose how many other teams expressed interest in him, but said once he knew Washington was interested, he immediately pictured himself in the District.
“This is where I wanted to go of all the options, and I’m really excited that we were able to get something done,” Kuemper said.
Kuemper said several players in Washington texted him to welcome him. Part of the appeal of the Capitals was a nucleus still in tact that has experience winning the Stanley Cup.
“He’s had a lot of good years, a lot of good performances,” Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said. “Seems like a good person, a good character, a good team guy. I think it’s exactly what we needed going into next year.”
Washington also completed its goaltending tandem Wednesday, signing backup goaltender Charlie Lindgren on a three-year, $3.3 million deal. Lindgren, 28, played in five NHL games last season with the St. Louis Blues and went 5-0-0 with a 1.22 goals against average and a .958 save percentage. He spent the majority of the season with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League.
“We liked his performance last year,” MacLellan said. “I know it wasn’t a lot of games, but we think there is some upside there in goal, so we gave them the three-year term because it was competitive for him, and I think there was a lot of teams that were looking at him, and he was coming in at a good number, and he had good performance last year but limited games. We think he can continue to play well.”
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The Capitals were on the lookout for not one but two goaltenders through free agency. They traded Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey last week and elected to not extend a qualifying offer to Ilya Samsonov on Monday.
The Samsonov decision came as a bit of a surprise. MacLellan spoke with reporters last week and was adamant that Washington planned to give Samsonov a qualifying offer.
Instead, Samsonov, 25, hit the open market Wednesday and signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he appears likely to back up Matt Murray.
As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, the Capitals believed Samsonov may have seen his 2022-23 salary jump into the range of $3 million to $3.5 million had the team tendered a qualifying offer. That was more than Washington wanted to spend on Samsonov in a backup role.
Goaltender Pheonix Copley also moved on from the Capitals organization, signing a one-year, one-way contract with the Los Angeles Kings.
“I feel comfortable with what we have now,” MacLellan said. “I think we had two good goals [in Vanecek and Samsonov]. The young guys were good. I guess it’s a little frustrating that I wish one of them would have taken over the No. 1 spot. And it seemed like one or the other were going to, but then they never quite did it, and I think we ran out of time to wait for it.”
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The goalie market was rapidly changing early Wednesday, with Jack Campbell signing with the Edmonton Oilers on a five-year, $25 million deal. Campbell was believed to be a possibility for the Capitals before the signing of Kuemper.
Washington also made a surprising trade late Wednesday, acquiring winger Connor Brown from Ottawa for a 2024 second-round pick. Brown, 28, recorded 10 goals and 29 assists last season in 64 games for the Senators. Brown, who has one year remaining on his three-year, $10.8 million deal, will become an unrestricted free agent next season. Brown is projected to be a right wing in Washington’s lineup that could see time on the top line.
The Capitals made a couple of moves to bolster their blue line, first signing defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $800,000 deal. Gustafsson played in 59 games for the Chicago Blackhawks last season and recorded three goals and 15 assists.
Gustafsson, a left-shot defenseman, is projected to play with Trevor van Riemsdyk on the third pairing. Washington needed to fill a hole in the lineup after defenseman Justin Schultz, who became an unrestricted free agent Wednesday, signed a two-year deal with the Seattle Kraken.
The Capitals also signed forward Marcus Johansson to a one-year, $1.1 million deal late Wednesday, locking in another depth forward. Washington signed Johansson at the trade deadline in March. He produced three goals and three assists in 18 games.
The Capitals also added a couple of players to two-way deals, meaning the player is paid a reduced salary when in the AHL. Defenseman Matt Irwin, 34, re-signed with the team on a one-year, two-way deal. Finnish forward Henrik Borgstrom, 24, also signed on a one-year, two-way deal. The Blackhawks bought out the final year of Borgstrom’s contract, which carried a $1 million contract, on Tuesday. Borgstrom had seven points in 52 games with the Blackhawks last year.