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Making sense out of Holtby's bid for $8 million


Making sense out of Holtby's bid for $8 million

Don’t be misled by Braden Holtby seeking the biggest arbitration award in NHL history. While he may have filed a request for $8 million, there’s very little chance he will walk away from Thursday’s hearing as the second highest-paid goaltender in the league, behind Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million average salary).

It is also highly unlikely the independent arbitrator will rule in favor of the Capitals, who reportedly submitted a one-year request for $5.1 million.

If history repeats itself, an NHL arbitrator will find common ground somewhere in the middle, which in the case of Holtby, would be a one-year settlement in the $6.5 million range. A ruling must be made within 48 hours of the hearing, but the two sides can come to an agreement on a new contract any time before the ruling is handed down.

As a point of reference, let’s look back to the 2011 arbitration between defenseman Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators. Weber was seeking $8.5 from the arbitrator, while the Predators submitted a figure of $4.75 million. The arbitrator in that case awarded Weber $7.5 million, the most lucrative award in NHL history.

John LeClair of the Philadelphia Flyers had set the previous record of $7 million back in 2000. LeClair was  seeking $9 million; the Flyers’ submission was $4.6 million.

When Holtby’s agent, David Kaye, presents his case on Thursday he likely will use Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky as Exhibit A. Heading into last season, Bobrovsky was the same age as Holtby is now (25) and had put up almost identical career stats (179 games, 95-54-21 record, 2.49 GAA, .917 save percentage) as Holtby has now (178 games, 101-54-18 record, 2.44 GAA, .921 save percentage).

RELATED: Arbitration numbers set for Holtby vs. Capitals

With Bobrovsky headed toward restricted free agency, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed him in January to a four-year, $29.7 million deal that averages $7.425 million, making him the second highest-paid goalie, behind Lundqvist. But Bobrovsky has a Vezina Trophy under his belt and of the nine goalies making $6 million or more, seven of them have won a Vezina Trophy and/or a Stanley Cup, something Holtby cannot claim.

If Holtby’s award falls in the range between Carey Price ($6.5 million) and Tuukka Rask ($7 million), the Caps would have roughly $3.7 million in cap space to sign left wing Marcus Johansson, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing on July 29. The Caps can gain more cap space before the start of the season by sending goaltender Justin Peters ($950,000) to AHL Hershey, but it’s becoming clear they will be very close to the ceiling when the summer comes to an end.

Arbitration Procedure: 

At the hearing, each side has 90 minutes to present its case, followed by rebuttals from both sides. During the process, both sides can provide evidence to support their contract demands/offers, such as:

  • The number of games played and a player's injury history
  •  “Overall performance” [This includes NHL official statistics, including hits and giveaways; however, metrics such as Corsi ratings, zone starts, etc. are not admissible]  
  • Length of service of the player to the club or in the NHL
  • "The overall contribution of the Player to the competitive success or failure of his club in the preceding season" 
  • "Any special qualities of leadership or public appeal" 
  • The overall performance and compensation of comparable players
  • "Testimonials, videotapes, newspaper columns, press game reports 
    or similar materials” (Like Caps coach Barry Trotz saying Holtby is part of the team’s “DNA.”)

Binding decision: At the conclusion of the hearing the arbitrator must issue a decision to both parties within 48 hours, and it will include the term, salary, and a brief summary of the reasoning behind the decision.

Walk-aways: Although the decision of the arbitrator is binding, teams have the right to walk away from an award that exceeds $3.799 million.

MORE CAPS: Backstrom says he's aiming for season opener 

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.