Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan cracked the door a little on a possible return of Braden Holtby but acknowledged the chances of him re-signing are remote.
“Still to be decided,” MacLellan said during a press conference on Sunday. “It’s going to be difficult. Sometimes opportunities come up that you don’t expect. I think we’d like to play it out and see what happens here.”
Days before, Holtby recognized that he may have played his final game as a Capital after Washington was eliminated by the New York Islanders in the first round.
“Certainly a chance it is,” Holtby said. “But who knows. You live one day at a time and go from there. More right now it’s just, this [loss] is going to sting a little bit.”
While both sides are open to a return, a flat salary cap and a likely raise for Holtby will make the numbers difficult. The league initially predicted the 2020-21 salary cap would be between $84.2 and $88 million, but the coronavirus pandemic changed that landscape. The NHL suspended its season for nearly five months, axed approximately 12 regular-season games for each team, and forced the 2020 playoffs to be played in a bubble with no fans. In a new CBA, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to keep the salary cap static until certain monetary goals are reached in the future.
“It’s gonna be tight. It’s gonna be hard for cap teams to complete their lineup, to create depth in their lineup,” MacLellan said. “We do have a little room to make some signings. So we’re going to see what happens with the trade market at the draft and then proceed through free agency and try to do the best job we can. Obviously, there’s going to be some tough decisions that have to be made. We’ll try to do our best to make the right ones.”
Ilya Samsonov’s exemplary performance as a rookie during the 2019-20 season and the emergence of Vitek Vanecek adds more wrenches to a possible homecoming. Samsonov finished the season with a 16-6-2 record, a 2.55 goals-against average, and a .913 save percentage while Vanecek was the AHL’s 2020 All-Star Game MVP and moved up the depth chart past Pheonix Copley during the postseason.
“We’re transitioning on D a little bit with some young guys, a young goaltender coming in,” MacLellan said of how the roster will look next year. “I think we’re injecting some youth. Ideally, we’d like to have a good blend of youth and our core players. That’s our hope to accomplish that and play at a high level next year.”
MacLellan added that Samsonov will remain in Washington to rehab neck and back injuries he reportedly suffered during an ATV accident back at home. Samsonov did not pass a physical before Phase 3 Training Camp and did not join the Capitals in the bubble.
“I think six weeks of therapy and I think we’ll evaluate him after the eight-week mark,” MacLellan said. “Sounds like it’s going well. He’s planning on spending his summer here rehabbing and conditioning. He should be ready for camp.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB