ARLINGTON, Va. -- An early playoff exit gave way to a long offseason for the Capitals. Though certainly a disappointing end to the team’s quest to defend its Stanley Cup title, goalie Braden Holtby was able to take advantage of the extra rest it offered.
Speaking after an informal skate on Wednesday, Holtby said he feels like he has a little more jump in his step after getting more time to heal and rest.
“There’s an opportunity in everything,” he said.
The extra time off was good to have as Holtby prepares to jump from a long offseason into what will likely be a very long season both physically and mentally.
In addition to returning as the No. 1 goalie for a team hoping to win it’s second Stanley Cup in three years, Holtby is in the final year of his contract. As arguably the best goalie in franchise history and still in his prime, it would seem on the surface that bringing Holtby back would be a no-brainer for general manager Brian MacLellan. Holtby’s situation, however, is made far more complicated by a tight salary cap, the Seattle expansion draft and prospect Ilya Samsonov who is widely regarded as the team’s future starter.
Holtby, however, does not want to think about any of those things.
“Obviously, my goal is to win a Stanley Cup here and everything else, I'm not an agent for a reason,” Holtby said. “I'm a hockey player.”
Hotlby’s future with the Caps became more cloudy when goalie Sergey Bobrovsky signed a massive 10-year, $70 million deal with the Florida Panthers in the offseason. Holtby will be the same age next year as Bobrovsky was this year when he became a free agent. With similar stats, Bobrovsky’s contract is an obvious comparable, but that money will be hard for Washington to fit under the cap.
LIke many, Holtby followed Bobrovsky’s free agency, but his main takeaway was not the term or the money the Russian netminder received, it was how it affected his team.
“We try and keep tabs with what's going on around the league,” Holtby said of Bobrovsky. “I'd like to handle it a little different throughout the year to try and just focus on our team and not let it be a media thing.”
Bobrovsky’s free agency hung over the Columbus Blue Jackets all season creating obvious tension within the team. That tension boiled over in January when Bobrovsky left the bench after getting pulled in a game. He was confronted by teammates and benched by the team for a game as a result.
Columbus rebounded to just barely squeeze into the playoffs and upset the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, but fell short again of their ultimate goal with a second-round loss to the Boston Bruins.
Holtby does not want to see that happen in Washington.
Even entering a contract year, Holtby stressed that his focus is not on himself or his future, but rather the team and winning a Cup. That is a sentiment he has stressed to both his agent, David Kaye, and MacLellan.
“I think that's pretty universal between myself, Dave and Mac,” Holtby said. “These things are a part of every year, different player or whatever, but the number one thing is to not let it be a distraction and go out and win games.”
For a starting goalie, however, keeping this from becoming a distraction is easier said than done. But while Bobrovsky had already determined the prior year that he would be moving on, Holtby made clear he wants to remain with the Capitals.
“This is all I know here,” Holtby said of Washington. “I’d love [to re-sign]. I think that’s pretty clear. But you don’t worry about that stuff. I’m lucky enough to be here for at least right now so happy for that.”
To that end, Holtby believes Kaye is set to meet with MacLellan soon about a possible extension. How realistic a return ultimately ends up being remains to be seen. But even if Holtby realizes that and has started internally moving on from Washington, he shows no sign of it. He has one focus right now and that is enjoying another season with the Caps and trying to win a second Cup.
“It's just one of those things, you let the business side of it take care of it and you focus on your job,” Holtby said. “I'm lucky enough to be under contract for another year to play hockey here so it's pretty fortunate and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity with a great team coming back.”
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