Braden Holtby is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Despite Brian MacLellan making it pretty clear that the team was holding onto Holtby and would talk contract with him after the year, the Capitals general manager was asked by the media during his press conference on Wednesday if Braden would still be on the team after the trade deadline.
“Braden? Yeah,” a surprised MacLellan said. “I think our story has been the same the whole year. He’s our guy and we’re going to try and compete for a (Stanley) Cup. We want him playing the top of his game at the end of the year.”
Ilya Samsonov’s strong rookie season as a backup (16-4-1 record) has sparked conversation and debate among Caps fans, especially in the comment sections of RMNB, about dealing Holtby at the trade deadline. Those fans argue that the Caps should trade the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender to get assets now before potentially losing the franchise goaltender for good over the summer and getting nothing in return.
Lately, though, Holtby has returned to top form after a rough stretch that saw him give up four-or-more goals in seven of 11 games.
“Yeah, he looks confident,” MacLellan said of Holtby. “That road trip he looked excellent – all the games. Played real well. I think it’s a good sign for our team going forward.”
And Samsonov’s performance, no matter how great, has not changed MacLellan’s view of Holtby or accelerated any timetables this season.
“At the end of the year, we’ll sit down with Braden and talk where we’re at,” MacLellan said. “Samsonov has been great but he’s still a young goalie. It’s his first year. Still developing. So we’ll sit down and evaluate everything at the end of the year.”
As for what Caps fans can expect at the trade deadline, MacLellan is more interested in depth, perhaps a bottom-six forward, than making a blockbuster deal.
“Yeah I don’t know. How do you anticipate?” MacLellan said. “Sometimes calls come in that are unexpected and they bring up things. It’s tough to say ‘this is what we’re going to do’, but we’re going to be open to whatever conversations we have.”
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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