Holtby could look for next best place after helping Capitals chase Cup - NHL.com
|NHL.com 17 Jul 2020 at 21:24|
Braden Holtby said he is focused on trying to win another Stanley Cup championship with the Washington Capitals this season, but the goalie acknowledged he might then have to go elsewhere to pursue more.
Holtby is in the final season of a five-year contract and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. With the NHL salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season, the Capitals might not have the space to re-sign him.
"My focus right now is to win a championship, and moving forward is to find the next best place to win a championship with," Holtby said. "Hopefully it s here, hopefully everything works out, but you never know. So right now, you live in the moment and we have an exciting opportunity to have some fun."
Holtby s decision was put on hold when the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The 30-year-old said throughout the season he would wait until it was over to think about being a free agent.
That won t happen until at least October now, and Holtby has more pressing business with the Capitals (41-20-8, .652 points percentage) preparing to play their opening game in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, .657) in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, on Aug. 3. Washington will also play the Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7, .645) and Boston Bruins (44-14-12, .714) in the round-robin to determine seeding for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
All players had the right to opt out of the remainder of this season, and although there is some risk for Holtby -- an injury could impact his value as a free agent -- he said he never considered it.
"Not at all," Holtby said. "My job right now is to win a championship with the Caps. That s the only focus. ... I don t think I ve ever worried about injuries or anything like that. Any game you get to play, you re fortunate to be able to play in this league, so it s just one game at a time."
Holtby, who won the Vezina Trophy voted as the NHL s top goalie in 2015-16, had a subpar season when he was eighth in the League in wins (25-14-6) but had the worst goals-against average (3.11) and save percentage (.897) in his 10 NHL seasons.
Rookie Ilya Samsonov appeared to establish himself as the Capitals goalie of the future and pushed Holtby for playing time. Samosonov, who carries a lesser salary cap charge, played 26 games (22 starts) and was 16-6-2 with a 2.55 GAA, .913 save percentage and one shutout.
Holtby showed improvement in the month before the season was paused, going 5-3-2 with a 2.75 GAA and .911 save percentage from Feb. 10 to March 11 to reestablish himself as the starter. Samsonov was 0-3-1 with a 4.66 GAA and .866 save percentage during that span.
Capitals coach Todd Reirden has said multiple times that Holtby will be Washington s No. 1 goalie heading into the Qualifiers. Samsonov, who returned to Washington from Russia on July 2, has yet to practice since training camp opened Monday.
"I felt confident about Braden being in that role when we talked a few weeks ago," Reirden said. "I made a firm statement on the fact that I felt that he was going to be our starter beginning in the playoffs, and I said that with reason. I felt his game was heading in a better direction at the end of the year. I knew he was going to have an extended time with Scott Murray, our goalie coach, to be able to have them hitting and connecting on all things that they need to do to improve."