With most of the questions answered from this offseason for the Washington Capitals, a new issue seems to hang on the horizon. After the 2019-2020 season, center Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby can each become unrestricted free agents and both due for a major payday.
With the recent seven-year, $70 million contract ($10 million AAV) dolled out to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky by the Florida Panthers on July 1, Holtby is certainly due for a large deal.
Backstrom is one of the most underrated players in the league and the Capitals greatest players in the franchise’s history. Right now, it seems that the best option would be to hope that the players agree to take less to stay here for the long run. While everyone would want to see both players remain in the district, it is hard to try and work out a way that both players will stay on board.
With the NHL Expansion Draft looming in 2021 and goaltender Ilya Samsonov expected to succeed Holtby one day until then, it would be confusing to figure out why Holtby would want to sign a long-term extension only to be left exposed to the Seattle franchise. Should it come down to it, it would likely be Holtby to depart for another team.
While he is a great goaltender and great person, Backstrom is a total franchise player. He is the player whose number could be one of the two or three retired by the organization in the future.
The Capitals also have a strong line of goalies in the system. Samsonov was a first-round pick by the team a few years back and has spent a few years now developing to take over the reins when the time comes.
Another option that is possible is to just try and make cap space. The Capitals are currently over the salary cap ceiling and those numbers won’t change too much next year. Supposing that the salary cap is $83.5 million in 2020-21, the Capitals currently have $21,444,872 left in cap space with only defenseman Radko Gudas (UFA), center Travis Boyd (RFA), forward Brendan Leipsic (RFA), defenseman Christian Djoos (RFA), and defenseman Jonas Seigenthaler (RFA) up as well. With the ability to trade and move players around, the idea of making the space for the two remains possible.
For Holtby and Backstrom, the contracts will be something to worry about when that time comes. The two players are both veterans who have a very well-known presence around the league. Holtby and Backstrom are also two players who are known to remain calm and mentally strong when it comes to their play, meaning that these looming contract issues will be an issue for next years offseason. They will both focus on the season at hand and do not expect their play to drop in 2019-20. This season will be another big year for the Capitals as they look to make another deep run into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Without quality from two of the biggest stars on the team, it will be a tough feat to accomplish.
By Zac Herr