While many people think Braden Holtby played his last game in Washington, former Caps forward Anson Carter believes the Capitals should fight for their veteran netminder.
Holtby is set to be a free agent this offseason with his five-year $30.5 million contract expiring. Last season, he earned $5 million, and with only $14 million of projected salary-cap space available next season, Holtby would occupy a large chunk of that should he return to Washington.
In an interview with NBC Sports Washington, Carter said while money will absolutely factor into Holtby’s decision in the end, Washington is the best place for him if they can make it work financially.
“It really is going to come down to what is he looking for because there’s a lot of teams that want goaltending, need goaltending,” Carter said. “But I think the perfect spot for Holtby, I think is in Washington. If I’m Braden Holtby I’m not going anywhere. If they can make the money work, that’s exactly where I’d want to be if I was him.”
Holtby has spent his entire NHL career in Washington, winning the Stanley Cup, the Vezina and is a five-time All-Star. Leaving would be a major move, but with Ilya Samsonov on the rise, it could make the choice easier for the Capitals to let Holtby go.
The 23-year-old Russian won 16 games in 22 starts during his rookie season. He averaged a .913 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average. While the Capitals organization and their fans rallied behind Samsonov during his successes last season, Carter isn’t convinced they should put all their eggs in one basket.
“You have to ask yourself can Samsonov become a pro,” he said. “He wasn’t ready to come back and compete during this postseason. Is he willing to sacrifice everything to be all in like Braden Holtby has been and be a complete pro?”
From a financial standpoint, Samsonov is the ideal candidate. He is set to make $925,000 next season, which is especially important since the Capitals are scheduled to play seven players more than $5 million each. If Holtby chose to stay in Washington and the team could afford him, he could even find himself taking a backseat to Samsonov, which Carter believes is an unwise move from the Capitals.
“They might want to give him that No. 1 netminder position, but Braden Holtby’s a pretty proud guy,” Carter said. “He’s not going to say, ‘Hey, you can take the crease. Go ahead and run with it…’ It’s going to come down to the money, and the guys in that organization, in that locker room, they know who Braden Holtby is. They know what he can bring to the table, and I think there’s a level of comfort that goes into having a guy like that in your room that’s won with you in case Samsonov starts to falter.”
Ultimately, the Capitals will have a franchise-altering decision to make with their goaltender of over a decade. While many are confident he is on his way out of D.C., Carter believes the organization must heavily consider whether Samsonov is a reliable replacement and whether they can afford to cut ties with the goalie that won them their first Cup.