The five-year, $30.5 million contract that Braden Holtby originally signed on July 24, 2015, will expire in the fall after the 2020 playoffs conclude. The Canadian goalie, who has won a Vezina Trophy and led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018, has stated he’d love to stay in DC. “This is all I know,” Holtby said in August.
But Holtby is 30-years-old, due a pay raise (perhaps hefty), and is backed-up by an extremely talented rookie in Ilya Samsonov. With the NHL salary cap remaining flat next season, Holtby tempered his response to reporters on a potential return Friday but still made it clear he wants to remain in DC.
“I don’t really put much thought into free agency and that sort of thing,” Holtby said. “My focus right now is to win a championship and moving forward, is to find the next best place to win a championship with. Hopefully, it’s here. Hopefully, everything works out, but you never know. Right now you live in the moment and we have an exciting opportunity to have some fun.”
Holtby was also asked if he ever considered sitting out the postseason to avoid injury heading into free agency. Fellow unrestricted free agents Travis Hamonic and Mike Green ultimately decided not to play.
“Not at all. My job right now is to win a championship with the Capitals. That’s my only focus,” Holtby said. “Everything else after that is completely irrelevant. I don’t think I’ve ever worried about injuries or anything like that. You’re fortunate to be able to play in this league. I’m just going to take it one game at a time.”
It’s possible that Holtby could choose to sign a short-term contract with the Capitals and try the market again in a year or two. The goaltender, with a poor defense in front of him, had subpar numbers during the regular season, posting a 25-14-6 record, a 3.11 goals against average, and an uncharacteristic .897 save percentage. Despite it not accurately reflecting his own individual play, Holtby’s numbers could cost him in an already depressed free-agent market. Despite the flat cap, Holtby praised the new NHL CBA because the players could have lost out on a lot of money if they did not return.
“Obviously the PA and the NHL went through a long negotiation,” Holtby said. “It wasn’t that long but a lot of hard work and they came up with an extremely good thing for both sides.”
In December, reports surfaced that Holtby and the Capitals agreed to not talk contract until the end of the season. In a Russian language interview, Samsonov admitted that the lack of a deal weighed on his teammate.
“It’s hard to talk about it,” Samsonov said. “I have a good relationship with Holtby and we have a lot of respect for each other. I think it is very difficult for him now because of this situation with the contract. We all try to support him. He is our number one.”
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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