Caps GM doesn’t fear possible arbitration for Holtby, Johansson

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“If you’ve got to go to arb, you’ve got to go to arb.”

No, that’s not a new slogan for fast food roast beef. Instead, it’s the amusing phrasing Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan used as he projected comfort with the possibility of Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson going to salary arbitration, according to the Washington Post.

“I think we’ve made an aggressive offer with Holtby, hoping to get it done sooner than later,” MacLellan said. “I like what we’ve offered. We’ve offered a term deal with a good salary. The total dollars is pretty significant. Unfortunately, I guess you play it out. If you’ve got to go to arb, you’ve got to go to arb. It’s part of the process.”

The Washington Post notes that MacLellan described his offer to Johansson as “competitive.” Does that rank a little lower on the scale of negotiations than “aggressive,” though?

Contract talks don’t really go through the sometimes-tense arbitration process very often any longer. Each case would be fascinating if they made it that far, however.

A quick look at each RFA

Holtby is obviously the bigger name of the two, and with good reason after a breakout year.

The 25-year-old’s career numbers look excellent (especially an impressive .921 save percentage), and he really made an impression in 2014-15, going 41-20-10 with nine shutouts and a .923 save percentage. While his resume isn’t enormous – 73 of his 178 games played came this past season – his stats argue for a hefty raise from his bargain $1.85 million cap hit.

Johansson, 24, would be an interesting consideration in his own right, though.

The Swedish forward set career-highs with 20 goals and 47 points last season; he didn’t look out of place when he joined the Caps’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, either.

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Washington boasts about $10.9 million in cap space, but those two could eat a huge chunk of that breathing room. It sounds like MacLellan isn’t sweating the situation too much, though (at least publicly).

Caps ink Kuznetsov to two-year, $6 million extension

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Coming off an impressive first full season in Washington, Evgeny Kuznetsov has scored a new deal.

On Monday, the Caps announced they’d signed Kuznetsov to a two-year, $6 million extension with an average annual cap hit of $3M. The deal allows the two sides to avoid arbitration — the Caps had until today to file — and comes after the 23-year-old put together a solid rookie campaign, notching 11 goals and 37 points in 80 games to finish ninth among first-year players in scoring.

Kuznetsov, who was an RFA, was carrying a $900,000 cap hit on his old deal.

The move is just the latest from Caps GM Brian McLellan, who’s been a busy man of late. He made a splash in free agency by acquiring former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams, then orchestrated the T.J. Oshie trade shortly thereafter.

Previously, MacLellan suggested that Williams and Kuznetsov would play together on a line next season, along with Andre Burakowsky.

As for what’s up next — the Caps still need to reach new deals with two other RFAs: Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson.

Arbitration filed: Holtby, Nyquist & Stepan highlight list released by NHLPA

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A total of 23 players have filed for arbitration, according to a list unveiled by the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby along with Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist and Rangers’ Derek Stepan are part of the list released on Sunday.

The deadline for club-elected arbitration is Monday at 5 p.m. ET. Salary Arbitration hearings will be held from July 20 to August 4.

Here is the complete list of players who have filed:

Arizona Coyotes
Mikkel Boedker
Phil Samuelsson
Brendan Shinnimin

Buffalo Sabres
Phil Varone

Calgary Flames
Lance Bouma
Paul Byron
Josh Jooris

Colorado Avalanche
Andrew Agozzino
Mathew Clark

Detroit Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist

Minnesota Wild
Erik Haula

Nashville Predators
Taylor Beck
Craig Smith
Colin Wilson

New Jersey Devils
Eric Gélinas
Adam Larsson

New York Rangers
Derek Stepan

Ottawa Senators
Alex Chiasson
Mike Hoffman

Philadelphia Flyers
Michael Del Zotto

St. Louis Blues
Magnus Paajarvi

Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby
Marcus Johansson

Caps agree to terms with veteran goalie Dan Ellis

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The Washington Capitals have agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with Dan Ellis, per the team’s website.

Ellis is a veteran of 212 career NHL games. The 35-year-old netminder posted a 2.35 GAA and .914 save percentage in eight contests with the Florida Panthers in 2014-15. He also had a 2.71 GAA and .904 save percentage in 37 AHL contests.

He’ll probably start the campaign competing for playing time in the minors with another veteran goaltender in Justin Peters. Meanwhile 25-year-old Braden Holtby and 23-year-old Philipp Grubauer are projected to begin the 2015-16 season as the Capitals’ starting and backup netminders respectively.

Due in part to the youth of the Capitals’ top two goalies, the projected AHL tandem has logged more NHL games than their Washington counterparts.

Washington has already had a busy summer with the signing of Justin Williams and acquisition of T.J. Oshie, but the team isn’t finished yet. It still needs to come to terms with restricted free agents Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Holtby.

Is it too early to get excited about Crosby vs. Ovechkin again?

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Yes, we’ve been in this spot before.

For all the star power that the NHL boasts outside of Pittsburgh and Washington, it’s difficult to resist the siren call of a spike in the Sidney Crosby – Alex Ovechkin rivalry. It’s perfectly plausible that we’ll never get a sequel to that memorable 2009 playoff series.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s be honest: it’s been a while since the Penguins and Capitals were in a better position collectively to pull this off.

Serious firepower

It’s still strange to picture Phil Kessel in a Penguins uniform, firing home well-placed passes from Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin … but would it be that outrageous to imagine Kessel chasing Ovechkin in the Maurice Richard race now? As excited as Crosby and Malkin seem to be about the acquisition, Kessel and hockey fans should be especially thrilled.

Here’s the wrinkle that makes things even more fun: while the Penguins added the biggest name, Washington’s moves likely provide the Capitals with a deeper array of weapons.

Beyond the obvious in Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps now combine seasoned newcomers (Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie) with promising youngsters (Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky) to form a frightening forward group.

Hockey’s a team sport, and Crosby – Ovechkin can only be so riveting on their own … so how about Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Kris Letang vs. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Williams, Oshie and Washington’s bevvy of pricey blueliners? Yeah, that sounds like appointment viewing.

While they’re still young

NHL TV Awards Show
via Getty Images

As strange as it sounds, the window might be closing on this rivalry, at least as a true showcase of two players who are seriously considered two of the best alive.*

Ovechkin will turn 30 on Sept. 17, and his hair is already looking a little grayer these days. Crosby turns 28 in August and people are already wondering if he’s starting to slow down.

No, the Penguins and Capitals haven’t totally mortgaged their futures this summer, yet the complexion of each franchise changed in some resounding ways in the past few days. You never know what might happen – we’ve been fooled before – but it’s tough not to picture an epic 2016 playoff series between these two players (and teams).

If nothing else, it’s fun to think about.

* – One could quibble about where the two rank among the elite, but they’re at least up there, right?