Braden Holtby was a major focal point for the Washington Capitals this past season.
At the start of the year he was the weak link, the guy without the major successful body of work who was either going to sink or not sink a lot.
Then it became clear he was going to work out in some form or fashion. And then by the end of the year, he turned into a quasi franchise netminder. And all this tireless work the Caps put into Holtby with goaltending coach Mitch Korn is going to yield the netminder – who elected for arbitration – a lot of money.
The Caps created him as an elite netminder, and now they can’t control his cost. He’s in some ways the Frankenstein’s monster of goaltenders.
Said the Washington Post:
It is clear Holtby deserves at least $6 million per year based on his performance to date and what the market is paying.
And that would be a hefty raise from $1.85 million per-year. The $6 million number is completely reasonable for Holtby. The story notes comparables as Semyon Varlamov ($5.9 million per-year), Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.425 million per-year) and Carey Price ($6.5 million per-year) from when they signed their contracts.
Before this season, Holtby had never played more than 48 games in an NHL season. That year (2013-14) he had a 2.85 goals against average and .915 save percentage. The year before he had a 2.58 GAA and .920 save percentage in 36 games.
But with Holtby, it’s more about signing him for potential based off last season where he played an NHL-high 73 games and had a 2.22 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
In the playoffs he was an intimidating, woolly, bearded beast who had a 1.71 goals against average and .944 save percentage for the Caps in 13 games.
Said the Post:
Over the first five years of their career, the player most similar to Holtby in terms of overall statistics is Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.
Holtby has a 101-51-18 record over 170 games started, Rinne is 95-54-18 over 167 starts. Holtby has posted a save percentage of .921 over 5,166 shots faced, Rinne has saved 92 percent of 4,929 shots faced. Holtby has produced 35.6 goalie point shares, an estimate of the number of points contributed by a player because of his play in goal, Rinne 34.6.
Though his numbers are like Rinne’s through the same experience level, there’s indeed some inconsistency to the goaltending market. Signing any younger player to a long-term contract is a risk. Signing a goaltender to a multi-year deal comes with greater uncertainty. You think the Carolina Hurricanes would like a mulligan on Cam Ward’s six-year deal that kicked in during the 2010-11 season? He played just 47 games between 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Jimmy Howard still has four years left on his six-year contract with the Red Wings. The dude was beat out as Detroit’s playoff starter last season by Petr Mrazek. I repeat, Petr Mrazek beat out Jimmy Howard.
Said Japers’ Rink:
Because of that inconsistency, I'd counsel towards a shorter term contract, ideally keeping the AAV lower as well since fewer UFA years would be bought out. Holtby has at times been great, but I don't see the track record that makes me confident enough to go all in with a long term, high dollar contract. You can win a Cup with a less-than-elite goalie, but it's much harder to win with an overpaid goalie.
There’s also this sort of ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario that follows Korn with his goaltenders. Did he make the netminder elite? Or can the goaltender sustain this level without Korn.
For every Pekka Rinne and Tomas Vokoun who became excellent goaltenders under Korn and sustained that level, there are guys like Dan Ellis, Anders Lindback who dropped off after they no longer worked with Korn.
If Holtby signs a long-term deal, odds are he’ll outlast Korn with the Capitals.
Though Holtby does seem to have the chutzpah to maintain his current level. I mean, just look at the focus on his face. That is not a guy who will just goof off after getting a big contract.
In all sincerity, he takes his craft pretty seriously and wants to improve.
From a Sportsnet story last January on Holtby:
When we walk by Braden Holtby 40 minutes before puck drop Wednesday at Air Canada Centre, he’s already in the zone. Alone in the arena’s hallway, he has his pads, blocker and trapper on and is facing a wall. Visualizing imaginary shots, fictional rebounds and blue-paint scrambles, his hands flick and dart, his legs kick out, snap back.
The routine is spastic, hypnotizing and, save the soft whip of leather in the air, silent.
As CSN Washington notes, the salary cap isn’t a major issue in this negotiation.
The Caps are currently about $11 million under the NHL salary cap and are trying to calculate how much money may be left over once Holtby and (Marcus) Johansson are under contract.
Holtby is believed to be seeking more than $6 million in annual salary, while the Caps’ offer is believed to be in the five-year range at a little more than $5 million per season. Johansson is believed to be seeking about $4 million a year, while the Caps are believed to be setting their sights on about $3 million.
There are worse things for an NHL team than trying to come to terms with a solid RFA goaltender. But the Caps have to weigh a lot of factors before giving such a deal to Holtby.
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