It’s been one of the hotter topics in the Capitals universe so far this season. Braden Holtby and his pending unrestricted free agency. The Capitals and Holtby agreed to push-off any negotiations for a new contract until after the season. However, it was very likely that Holtby was going to at least test the market, and see what he might be able to get. This was his one last chance in his professional career to secure a major payday.
Prior to the suspension of play on March 12, the NHL’s forecast for next year’s salary cap was in the neighborhood of $84 to $88.2 million, up from this season’s $81.5 million cap. Free agent players, including Braden Holtby, were set to capitalize on their unrestricted free agency, and set to test a robust financial market.
Unfortunately those days are likely long gone. With the suspension in play, it’s very unlikely that there will be any increase in the salary cap. It could remain stagnate, or even take a dip. Reports and projections for next year’s salary cap have been all over the place lately. It’s a situation currently in flux, but with revenues dwindling each passing day, It’s likely the cap remains at $81.5 million, or even takes a minor dip.
So, what does this mean for Braden Holtby? It’s very unfortunate. He’s likely to make much less on the open market this summer (offseason). How much less, we just don’t know at this point. However, the dry financial market, coupled with a sub-par season statistically could mean a new contract for substantially less than what he was projected to make last summer.
So how does this improve Holtby’s chances for returning to the Capitals? Make no mistake, he could still test the free agency market this offseason, and find a team that is willing to pay him a handsome sum. However, if he waited a year, he might find a much improved financial setting for being a free agency. Waiting a year might not be bad idea, and could even mean more money in the long run for Holtby. A one-year extension could make sense for the 30-year-old. It really depends on what the financial markets will look like this offseason compared to next offseason. If he projects a more lucrative deal with greater overall value during the 2020-2021 free agency period, he would be smart to hunker down, and sign a one year extension with the Capitals.
For the Capitals, they were very likely looking at signing a backup this offseason, to support Ilya Samsonov next season. Samsonov, 23, has never started more than 37 games in a season in his entire career, including seasons in the KHL. The Capitals will need a backup that could potentially play 35 games or more.
As far as promoting Vitek Vanecek or even Pheonix Copley, (which could still happen), the NHL experience is just not there. Not yet. For example, a Samsonov and Vanecek goaltending duo would have all of 26 games of total experience in the NHL. Therefore, a one-year extension for Holtby at a moderate price could be an optimal play for the Capitals as well.
It’s still very early in the grand scheme of things, but it’s easy to see that the chances of Braden Holtby returning next season may have improved somewhat due to the pause in play.
By Jon Sorensen