The Washington Capitals have two of its biggest stars in franchise history going into the final years of their deals this season. Nicklas Backstrom is at the end of a 10-year, $67 million contract that pays him $6.7M annually while Braden Holtby, who has an AAV of $6.1M, is at the conclusion of a five-year, $30.5 million deal. Both players are deserving of raises.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan talked to NHL.com earlier this week and said he will be aggressive about speaking to both Backstrom and Holtby about new contracts as soon as he gets backs to DC in September. MacLellan is currently at his summer home in Minnesota and plans to return after Labor Day weekend.
“That’s coming up here,” MacLellan said to Tom Gulitti. “I’ve checked in with both. It might happen the beginning of September, depending on the timing of me getting back. But it will happen right away (after I return). … We’ve got to talk and give both players what we’re thinking, get their feelings on the situation and play it out from there.”
According to Gulitti, MacLellan did not rule out re-signing one of the two players before the Capitals’ season opener. The Caps play the St. Louis Blues on their banner-raising night October 2.
“It will depend on the conversations we have, on how they want to proceed and what they think is best for everybody,” MacLellan said. “Obviously, contract demands and what we feel [NHL salary cap-wise] we can handle in that position (are factors). And Samsonov has to continue to develop and become the goalie we think he could be.”
The most obvious candidate to re-sign quickly is Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom wants to return, recently stating that he would “love” to spend his whole career in Washington. The Swedish center has also consistently performed at a high level going into his early 30’s, posting 70 points or more in six consecutive seasons. Then there’s that whole no-one-here-could-physically-and-emotionally-handle-watching-Backstrom-play-on-another-team thing.
“We’re going to be sentimental with Ovi and Nicky for sure,” MacLellan said to The Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan in December 2018. “Because they’ve been here forever and they’ve done what they’ve done. I think you have to be. They’ve defined this franchise. You can’t be that cold.” Ovechkin’s 13-year, $124 million contract ends in the summer of 2021.
Meanwhile, Holtby’s next contract has a lot of potential variables. MacLellan will have to juggle Samsonov’s rapid development, money for Backstrom and maybe even Ovechkin, and a salary cap which is not expected to jump up more than a few million next summer.
One thing that is clear, however, is Holtby’s value. The Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winner is one of the best goaltenders in the league and is deserving of a salary at, near, or above $10 million. Contracts signed by the Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky ($10M AAV) and the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9.5M AAV) this summer established Holtby’s worth on the free-agent market.
So while the Capitals may not have many position battles during training camp, September will be a very important month for the franchise moving forward.
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