On Monday morning, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they have signed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to an eight-year contract that carries an average annual value of $9.5 million. Vasilevskiy’s contract comes on the heels of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s seven-year, $70 million contract ($10 million AAV) with the Florida Panthers. With Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby‘s contract up after this season, the signings are great news for Holtby but bad news for the cap-constrained Capitals. NoVa Caps takes a look at how Holtby’s performance compares to Vasilevskiy’s.
Vasilevskiy’s save percentage has increased steadily over the last few seasons, going from .917 in 2016-2017 to .920 in 2017-18 to .925 last year. Holtby’s has gone down during that time frame, dropping from .925 in 2016-17 to .907 in 2017-18 before rebounding to .911 last season.
In terms of career numbers, Vasilevskiy’s .919 save percentage slightly bests Holtby’s .918, though Holtby’s 2.47 goals-against average is better than Vasilevskiy’s 2.55.
While the career regular-season statistics are similar, Holtby’s postseason numbers are significantly better than Vasilevskiy’s. Holtby sports a 48-41 record in the postseason and Vailevskiy is 14-14. Holtby has a .928 save percentage, 2.09 goals-against average, and seven shutouts in postseason play while Vasilevskiy has a .912 save percentage, 2.83 goals-against average, and no shutouts. Holtby has won a Stanley Cup and Vasilevskiy has not, though Vasilevskiy has been to the Conference Final twice in his career while Holtby has gotten there only once.
Holtby’s save percentage has been around .910 for the past couple years while Vasilevskiy’s has been at least .920 in that same time. Holtby’s best season came at age 25 when his save percentage was the same as Vasilevskiy’s (.925) but his goals-against average of 2.22 was better than Vasilevskiy’s 2.40. Holtby tallied 9 shutouts at age 25 while Vasilevskiy had 6 but the Lightning goaltender only played in 53 games while Holtby played 73 that season. It is important to note that fatigue could have played a role in Holtby’s save percentage during 2014-15.
Vasilevskiy may have performed better all-around last season, but Holtby’s .828 high-danger save percentage was better than Vasilevskiy’s .815. According to Natural Stattrick, Holtby’s 356 high-danger saves were the second-most in the NHL last season (behind Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson), while Vasilevskiy was 16th with 268 saves from the high-danger area. Though, Holtby’s 74 high-danger area goals-against were tied with Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebyuck and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the second-most in the league behind only San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones’ 83. Vasilevsky gave up just 61 goals from the high-danger area, the 12th most. Holtby’s 1.63 high-danger goals-against average (23rd highest) was slightly higher than Vasilevskiy’s 1.45 (tied Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta for 41st).
With his new deal, Vasilevskiy is now the third-highest paid goaltender in the NHL for the 2019-20 season.
Assuming Holtby continues to put up strong numbers this season, it is reasonable to expect Holtby’s next cap hit to exceed New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and move into the top-four highest-paid goaltenders in the NHL.
The question is, will Holtby’s next deal crack the top three? Holtby is the only one of the four — Carey Price, Bobrovsky, and Vasilevsky — to have delivered a Stanley Cup, and he’s in line to be the biggest unrestricted free agent goalie available next July if the Capitals can’t find a way to re-sign him. The only other notable unrestricted free agent starting goalies are Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks. And while Holtby will be 30 years old at the end of the year, Price was 29 when he signed his contract and Bobrovsky, who is 255-153-37 with a save percentage of .919, a goals-against average of 2.46, and 33 shutouts in his NHL career (very similar to Holtby’s stats), was 31. Vasilevsky is the outlier in the group, signing his deal at age 25.
Holtby’s cap hit could end up higher than Vasilevskiy’s in the end because Vasilevskiy got the maximum eight-year term from the Lightning. If Holtby hits the unrestricted free agent market next summer, the maximum term he could get from anyone other than the Capitals is seven years unless the Capitals trade his rights before July 1.
Many hockey observers thought that Bobrovsky’s contract had set the market for Holtby when it comes time to negotiate a new contract but suitors will argue that Vasilevskiy’s deal should be used as a comparable. Vasilevskiy is younger and was arguably better than Holtby last year.
Whether or not Holtby cracks the top-three goalies, one thing is clear: he is getting paid.
How Much Will Braden Holtby Make Per Year In His Next Contract (AAV)?
By Harrison Brown