Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Washington Capitals.
A few years ago, if you would’ve suggested that Braden Holtby‘s future in Washington was in doubt, many hockey fans would’ve suggested you were crazy. After all, he has been one of the top goalies in the league for a while and he won a Vezina Trophy as recently as 2015-16. Oh, and he also helped the Caps win a Stanley Cup just last season.
Still, it’s interesting to note that the Capitals haven’t given him a contract extension heading into the final year of his current deal. He was eligible to sign an extension on July 1st, 2019, and teams with franchise players usually opt to get a new contract signed as soon as that player is eligible to do so.
Why haven’t the Caps extended Holtby yet?
Well, it might have something to do with the fact that they want to see how he performs at the start of this year. Although the Capitals have had a ton of success over the last two seasons, their starting netminder has had his issues with consistency. In 2018, the year they won the Stanley Cup, Holtby’s play dropped off so badly that backup netminder Philipp Grubauer took over between the pipes. Grubauer actually started the first two games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs until they want back to Holtby in Game 3 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Three Questions | Under Pressure]
Last season, there was a stretch from Jan. 18 to Feb. 23 where Holtby won just four of his 13 appearances. In the end, he finished with a 2.82 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in 59 games. It’s safe to say the Capitals are expecting more from their number one goalie.
The fact that Holtby doesn’t have a new contract yet probably doesn’t mean that the Caps want to get rid of him, but it indicates that the two sides likely don’t agree on his dollar value. Is the 29-year-old looking for a deal similar to the one Sergei Bobrovsky signed with Florida this summer (seven years, $70 million)? Would the Caps be willing to go anywhere close to that? Probably not.
It’ll be interesting to see where the two sides end up meeting (if at all) once the negotiations are concluded. Holtby made it pretty clear that he wants to come back.
“This is all I know here,” Holtby said of Washington, per NBC Sports Washington. “I’d love [to re-sign]. I think that’s pretty clear. But you don’t worry about that stuff. I’m lucky enough to be here for at least right now so happy for that.
“It’s just one of those things, you let the business side of it take care of it and you focus on your job. I’m lucky enough to be under contract for another year to play hockey here so it’s pretty fortunate and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity with a great team coming back.”
It’ll be fascinating to see how Holtby handles the uncertainty surrounding his contract status. This will probably be the top storyline for this team heading into the season.
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
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Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.