Braden Holtby

Holtby has much to prove, possibly even to Caps’ GM

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Even if it could still be a relative bargain for the Washington Capitals, it’s not lost on Braden Holtby that his five-year, $30.5 million contract puts him in select company among goalies.

Holtby provided a message during Friday’s conference call: after working to earn a raise from $1.85 million to $6.1 million per year, now he must show that he’s worth that new deal.

As the seventh-highest paid netminder in the NHL, some would expect “elite” work. Interestingly, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan wasn’t ready to put him in that category just yet.

“I don’t know if I would call him elite,” MacLellan said. “He’s above average, that’s for sure.”

Perhaps the Caps GM is just guilty of using some odd semantics, though. He also told reporters that he believes that Holtby has the potential to win championships for Washington and be a “top-two or top-five” goalie.

“I think he’s just touching the surface of what he could become,” MacLellan said, according to the Canadian Press. “I don’t know what the ceiling is on him.”

OK, so obviously MacLellan wasn’t burying the 25-year-old, but it was still a little weird to hear him hesitate to throw around the word elite.

Maybe he just doesn’t want Holtby’s ego to inflate along with his bank account?

Capitals investment: Holtby signs five-year, $30.5M deal

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Braden Holtby received a huge raise on Friday, but it was more than reasonable considering his breakout season with the Washington Capitals.

The team signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract, which makes him the seventh-highest paid goalie in the NHL.

“Braden emerged as a top NHL goaltender and we are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract,” GM Brian MacLellan said. “We feel Braden is just entering his prime and in his young career has already established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the history of our franchise. He is an athletic goaltender with a tremendous work ethic and is a big part of our future.”

Holtby’s cap hit comes in at $6.1 million, placing him here among netminders:

This is how the contract reportedly breaks down from a year-to-year perspective:

The 25-year-old came into 2014-15 with very nice career averages, but this was the season where he proved that he could be a big-time work horse, logging a ridiculous 73 games played. It wasn’t quantity over quality, either, as he went 41-20-10 with nine shutouts and a .923 save percentage.

His playoff work has been great, too, especially from an individual standpoint. Holtby bumped his career postseason save percentage to .936, up from his already-impressive regular season average of .921.

In many regards, Holtby is worth every penny of this deal, especially considering those numbers. It’s a nice situation for him, too, as this buys some RFA time at a healthy price. He was a steal at his previous cap hit of $1.85 million, yet his rate is pretty reasonable right now, too.

Washington has an estimated $4.22 million in cap space remaining after the deal, according to General Fanager.

No hurt feelings between Smith and Preds

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In the end, Craig Smith and the Nashville Predators didn’t need an arbitrator to render a decision on his salary. The two sides reached a four-year, $21.25 million deal on their own.

But they still went through with Monday’s hearing. And as we all know, sometimes those hearings can cause hurt feelings.

Not so in this case, according to Smith and GM David Poile.

“I’ve probably said worse things (about) myself than what I heard (in) there,” Smith said, per The Tennessean.

Said Poile: “I’m sure if you talked to Craig Smith, he might have taken disagreement to things that we said, but I would be very surprised if he’s not a very happy guy today.”

Calgary’s Lance Bouma is scheduled for arbitration today. Thursday, it’s Washington’s Braden Holtby and Ottawa’s Alex Chiasson.

Related: Ah, arbitration: Holtby reportedly asking for $8 million, Caps countering at $5.1 million

Arbitration looms, but Johansson not worried about future with Caps

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Much like teammate and fellow RFA Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson is embroiled in contract negotiations with Washington as his arbitration hearing inches closer.

But to hear Johansson explain it, the lack of a new deal isn’t cause for concern.

“I’m not worried about that, I think I will continue to play there [in Washington],” he told Swedish news outlet Värmlands Folkblad. “My focus right now is on training hard and getting myself prepared, for I know I will be playing.”

(H/T to Hockey Ramblings for the translation.)

Johansson, 24, is slated for arbitration on July 29. That gives his camp eight more days to try and hash out a deal, and it’s not crazy to think both he and the Caps are waiting on the Holtby situation to unfold (the two sides are scheduled to go to arbitration on Thursday).

As Brough passed along earlier this morning, Washington’s No. 1 netminder is reportedly asking for $8 million per season while the Caps are countering at $5.1M; according to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt, in regular negotiations, the Caps were offering around $5.5 million while Holtby was asking for $6.5 million.

That’s a lot of money, and Washington has approximately $10 million in current cap space.

Regardless, Johansson is going to get a pay bump. He’s coming off career highs in goals (20) and points (47), though his playoff performance — just one goal in 14 games — did leave something to be desired. A raise from the $2 million he made annually on his last deal is inevitable, but how big?

“We will just have to wait for everything to be dealt with and finalized,” he explained. “It’s all part of the normal process.”

Ah, arbitration: Holtby reportedly asking for $8 million, Caps countering at $5.1 million

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Braden Holtby is proposing an $8 million salary.

The Washington Capitals are suggesting $5.1 million.

That’s according to CBC Sports reporter Tim Wharnsby, as the the two sides are scheduled to go to arbitration on Thursday.

Now, obviously, Holtby doesn’t really expect to get $8 million, just the same as the Caps don’t expect to get the 25-year-old goalie for a bargain $5.1 million. That’s just how arbitration works. Each side makes the strongest case it can.

The NHL’s highest cap hit for a goalie belongs to Henrik Lundqvist, at $8.5 million. And hey, the Holtby camp could argue* that Holtby actually has the same career save percentage as Lundqvist (.921).

Of course, the Caps could point to Cory Schneider having a .925 career save percentage, and his cap hit is only $6 million.

According to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt, in regular negotiations, the Caps were offering around $5.5 million while Holtby was asking for $6.5 million.

*As noted in the comments, only comparables that cover RFA years can be used in arbitration. But the point stands: Holtby has very good career numbers. If not Lundqvist, he could argue he deserves what Sergei Bobrovsky, 26, will make in Columbus next season.