One of the biggest stories of the Washington Capitals’ offseason is over a contract that does not even expire until 2020. Braden Holtby is entering the final year of his current deal and should be due a substantial raise...one the Caps will likely be unable to afford.
There are many Holtby fans out there who seem to think a hometown discount is all but guaranteed. He doesn’t care about money and he likes it in Washington so much he will be happy to take whatever the Caps can give him!
Holtby has made it clear in May that he would like to stay in Washington and he certainly could choose to take less than he is worth to help the team...slightly less. That is his prerogative, but there’s a limit. To think he is going to take a massive discount and leave several million dollars per year on the table seems unrealistic.
And there is nothing wrong with that. A professional hockey career is very short and players have to take advantage when they have the chance. Holtby has established himself as one of the top netminders in the NHL and there is nothing wrong with trying to cash in on that if that is what Holtby chooses to do.
If you are someone who believes “he has made enough money! He should be fine taking a minimum deal to stay with the team!” then this article is not for you. Enjoy your fantasy land where players do not care about getting paid for doing their jobs and feel free to check back in when the season starts and all the talk of money and contracts is over.
For the rest of you, here are six reasons why fans should not simply assume Holtby is going to be taking a massive hometown discount. with Washington.
Holtby took the Caps in arbitration in 2015
Think Holtby doesn’t care about his contract? Well, he did in 2015. He filed for arbitration when he and the team remained far apart in contract negotiations. The process went so far that Holtby and the team actually had his arbitration hearing before finally reaching an agreement before the arbitrator made his ruling.
Holtby had to scratch and claw to get a five-year contract worth $30.5 million for a $6.1 million cap hit. Since then, Holtby has won a Vezina Trophy, a William M. Jennings Trophy and a Stanley Cup.
But yeah, I'm sure he won't care what his next contract pays.
A really close comparable
Ultimately the market will dictate a player’s worth, but comparable contracts are a good way to estimate what a player can get paid. Sometimes it can be hard to find a perfect comparable, but that is not the case for Holtby.
Sergey Bobrovsky just signed a seven-year, $70 million contract in July with the Florida Panthers and it just so happens that he is the perfect comparable to Holtby.
Holtby will be 30 when his contract expires, the same age Bobrovsky is now. Here’s a look at how they compare statistically:
Bobrovsky: 2.46 GAA, .919 save percentage, 33 shutouts, two Vezina Trophies
Holtby: 2.47 GAA, .918 save percentage, 35 shutouts, one Vezina Trophy
That’s pretty close...until you look at their playoff numbers.
Bobrovsky: 11-18 record, 3.14 GAA, .902 save percentage, no shutouts
Holtby: 48-41 record, 2.09 GAA, .928 save percentage, seven shutouts, one Stanley Cup
If anything, Holtby is worth more than Bobrovsky. Convincing him to take several million dollars less per year than a goalie he directly compares to is going to be a really tough sell.
We have talked a lot about Bobrovsky’s contract this summer because, as the top free-agent goalie available, he has set the market with his new deal. Holtby is one of the best goalies in the world and will arguably be the best goalie on the market in 2020. HIs deal will be what every other goalie is compared to. If he takes a massive discount, it will really hurt the negotiations of every other goalie in need of a new deal.
You want $7 million per year? That’s what Holtby got and he is a Vezina and Cup-winner. You’re not as good.
How Holtby’s new contract affects everyone else is arguably not his problem, but let’s assume that Holtby actually cares about other people. Taking a deal worth $6 or $7 million per year would significantly impact other free agent goalies. When you are part of a union and are messing with the future salaries of other players, you can at least expect to have a conversation with someone from the union over what accepting less will mean for other goalies around the league.
No-movement clauses were a big topic of conversation in 2017 when the NHL held an expansion draft for Vegas. Teams were obligated to protect players with no-movement clauses from the draft. This caused a panic among some general managers, but not the Caps. No one on the team had a no-movement clause so it was not an issue.
Fast-forward to 2019 and once again, no one on the roster has a no-movement clause. There are several players with no-trade clauses, but none with no-movement. It just does not seem to be something that the Caps give out.
When you add in the fact that the team’s top prospect, Ilya Samsonov, is a goalie, then it seems like there is virtually no shot that Holtby gets a no-movement clause.
Why does that matter?
Because there is another expansion draft in 2021. If Holtby is going to sign a long-term deal with a team, it would presumably be because he wants to stay with that team and in that city for the length of the contract. A starting caliber goalie like Holtby will certainly be an attractive candidate for Seattle in the net expansion draft, especially after seeing the success Marc-Andre Fleury has had in Vegas.
With Seattle looming and Samsonov in the organization, it is not unreasonable to think Holtby will want some sort of guarantee that if he signs in Washington, he will stay in Washington. Given their track record and the fact that Samsonov is considered the future of the team, however, Holtby is unlikely to get a no-movement clause with the Caps.
In a contract negotiation, everything affects the bottom-line. If Holtby wants a no-movement clause, and there is every reason to believe he would given the circumstances, if he doesn’t get one, that will have to translate to the Caps giving him more money. It’s a trade-off.
It is a lot to ask to expect Holtby to accept less money and no no-movement clause.
This will be his last big deal
Holtby will turn 30 in September. He is in his prime now, but he won’t be by the time this deal expires. This is going to be Holtby’s last time to cash-in and his value is never going to be this high again. Every year is going to push him further into his 30s making the last years of a long-term deal more of a question mark.
This is the time for Holtby to max out the money and the term. There’s no time for a “take a team-friendly deal now and we’ll totally take care of you on the next contract" type of deal.
Whatever your job may be, no one likes to see someone else get paid more than you if you do a better job. It is human nature and a feeling we can all relate to. Just because Holtby’s new deal may include a few more zeros and commas than most people does not mean that human nature no longer applies.
You may think paying $10 million a year for a goalie is crazy. Yet, a 30-year-old goalie with similar stats and no Cup just got paid that and he also got a no-movement clause. Why would anyone assume Holtby would ask for less than that?
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: