Dom Lunardo | March 27th, 2020
Typically, when a goaltender posts multiple 30+ win seasons with a sub-2.50 goals-against-average (GAA), one would think they’d receive a little more recognition on a league-wide basis. However, when your teammate for the better part of 9 years is “The Great 8”, Alexander Ovechkin, one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the sport, this would seldom be true. Such is the case for Capitals goaltender, Braden Holtby, who often prefers his life quiet and “under the radar”. Two years removed from a Stanley Cup triumph with the Caps, Holtby will be in need of a new contract at the end of the 2019-20 campaign. What could the soft-spoken, laser-focused goaltender garner entering an unusual territory, as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st?
Holtby’s Tenure in D.C.
Barring the odd drop in performance from time to time, it’s hard to find many faults during Holtby’s overall tenure in Washington. Not only has Holtby manned the net for 9+ seasons, but he also led the team to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Championship back in June 2018. For a team with John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, and of course, Alexander Ovechkin, and his 706 career goals (and counting), times have been anything but smooth in D.C. over the past decade and a half. The Stanley Cup triumph in 2018, came after years and years of early exits and continuous playoff disappointments. However, at the end of every rink, and at the core of every season, was #70 standing tall in goal.
This season, like plenty in the past, has seen strong performances in goal from Holtby. In 48 games played this season, Holtby has gone 25-14-6 with his team in first place in a very competitive Metropolitan Division. His time in the nation’s capital has been a success, but it may very well be time for a changing of the guard in goal, and that could come sooner rather than later.
The (Russian) X-Factor: Ilya Samsonov
Like most teams from across the National Hockey League, the Capitals are right up against the NHL’s salary cap. The stoppage in play due to the COID-19 global pandemic has many general managers and owners biding their time, waiting for word as to whether or not we will see any further play this year, in addition to any significant increase in the salary cap. For a guy like Holtby, who’s played his entire career in Washington, D.C. it’ll certainly be difficult to see him in another uniform.
Slated to turn 31 years of age in September, it’s safe to say that Holtby has entered the twilight of his career. With that being said, much of Holtby’s future definitely lies with Russian youngster Ilya Samsonov, and how the Capitals organization views him moving forward. The Capitals’ first-round pick, 22nd overall during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Samsonov definitely came as advertised and is without question the “heir to the throne” in the Capitals crease. If the Caps feel as though Samsonov is ready to take the reins, that may spell the end for Holtby in D.C. It just may be that GM Brian McLelland and the Caps simply move on from their current number one netminder in favor of the young Russian. The question begs, do the Capitals decide to extend Holtby at a team-friendly rate, or do they cut ties and move in a different direction with Ilya Samsonov. It’ll be fascinating to see what the Capitals do in goal in the upcoming months and whether they can afford to retain Holtby’s services regardless of the term and dollar amount.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images