The Washington Capitals have decided to be patient in contract negotiations with center Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby, who can each become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. Backstrom and Holtby can each sign a contract extension that has a term up to eight years before 12 AM ET that day.
LeBrun said that the team wants to let the season play out as a way to better ponder their needs moving forward. He adds that the team is on the same page with both Holtby and Backstrom’s representatives. It is possible that the Capitals hold off on making a decision on Backstrom and Holtby until after the season is over.
Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman earlier this week that he didn’t believe being without a contract beyond this season impacted Holtby’s start to the season when he went 1-1-2 with an .846 save percentage and a 4.27 goals-against average. Since allowing three goals on three shots and getting pulled in the first period of a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on October 14, the 30-year old has gone 3-0-1 while allowing only 12 goals on 147 shots (.918 save percentage).
As for Backstrom, the contract situation has not affected his play as he has recorded two goals, nine points, and a -2 rating in 12 games this season.
Supposing the salary cap is at the projected $83.5 million next season, the Capitals have $19,969,038, which should be enough to keep both. Though with goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who is 3-1-1 with a .933 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average in his rookie season, projected to be the Capitals’ goalie of the future, Holtby’s future with the organization is unclear.
The team will likely keep Backstrom, who leads the franchise with 649 career assists, as the team is thin with high-end forward prospects and he has shown no interest in leaving.
Samsonov will start for the Capitals when they visit the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Friday night (10 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington).
By Harrison Brown