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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Is there any way for the Caps to keep Holtby?

Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Is there any way for the Caps to keep Holtby?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

I have talked and written a lot about Holtby recently and the challenges of keeping him. As of now, I believe this will be his last season in Washington because he will be too expensive and it will mean selling prospect Ilya Samsonov because of the looming expansion draft.

That is what I believe as of today, but a lot can happen in a year and yes, I do believe there is a scenario in which Holtby could return.

The first thing that would have to happen is Samsonov would have to struggle this season to the point that internally the Caps would have to reevaluate where his ceiling is. It is going to be very hard to justify giving a long-term contract to a 30-year-old goalie if you have a 23-year-old who you believe can be a decent NHL starter. If you no longer believe that is the case, however, then you can start to evaluate what you believe Holtby’s future may be.

Holtby will also have to be lights out this season. After registering a save percentage of over .920 for three straight seasons from 2014-2017, his numbers have been down the past two years with a percentage of .907 and .911. Brian MacLellan committed to making this team better defensively in free agency so the expectation is that Holtby’s numbers should improve.

Ok, so Holtby had a great season and there are internal questions over whether Samsonov is as good as originally thought. Now what? First, Holtby is going to have to accept less money than he is worth. Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract with a $10 million cap hit set the market this year. Holtby has similar regular season numbers, but he blows Bobrovsky out of the water when it comes to the playoffs, so he could reasonably demand over $10 million per year. With Nicklas Backstrom in need of a new deal and Alex Ovechkin’s contract expiring in 2021, I do not see any way the team can commit that much money to their netminder.

If he stays with Washington, Holtby could sign an eight-year deal, which is one year more than Bobrovsky got by going to a new team. If the Caps offered Holtby the same total amount of $70 million but spread it out over eight years, that would bring his total cap hit down to $8.75 million. That may still be too much, but it at least is a starting point where you can potentially negotiate from. Holtby and Backstrom’s deals will dictate how much space the team will need to free up, so once you get an idea of what Holtby is looking for, then it may be necessary to clear cap space. Who could be available will depend on how everyone plays this season, but with a pipeline full of defensive prospects I look at Dmitry Orlov as a possibility if he has another down year, as he carries a cap hit of $5.1 million through 2022-23.

The next step after that would be to trade away Samsonov. If you re-sign Holtby, you are committing to him long-term and have to protect him in the expansion draft. You cannot lose Samsonov for nothing, so you trade him.

Aaron A. writes: With all the talk about Braden Holtby probably going elsewhere for money and Ilya Samsonov being the next prospect, why is nobody talking about Pheonix Copley? Did everybody but me just forget about him? Copley has won us regular season games and is clearly already ready to go.

When it comes to planning out Washington’s future in net, no one is talking about Copley because he is not a starting-caliber goalie at the NHL level. He is 27 years old, and what we saw from him last season is about where his ceiling is. He won 16 games, which is great, but he also did so with a .905 save percentage. This is not a Philipp Grubauer situation where Copley is seen as a future NHL starter.

Copley can be a decent NHL backup, but I do not see him being anything beyond that, so he won’t have a major impact on the team’s decision between Holtby and Samsonov.

Douglas F. writes: Does the Pheonix Copley two-year, one-way extension mean that Samsonov is further behind in his development than we thought originally and that he won’t be ready to play in the 2019-20 season or maybe even the 2020-21 season?

No, what it means is MacLellan is acutely aware of the Seattle expansion draft rules and wants to make sure he has a goalie he can expose under contract.

While most people are focused on who the team can protect from the expansion draft, you should also be aware of who will have to be exposed. According to the rules, every team in the league will have to leave exposed a goalie who is under contract through the 2021-22 season or will be a restricted free agent in 2021. The Caps now have two goalies who fit that criteria in Copley and Vitek Vanecek. More on why that’s significant later.

Since Copley is an NHL backup, his deal has no real bearing on what the team thinks of Samsonov.

Phil M. writes: Could the Capitals bring up one of their Hershey goalies off and on during the year to develop and determine if they could perform come playoff time? If they gain confidence in them, might they trade Braden Holtby and go into the playoffs with a rookie goalie?

Yes and no.

With the Caps facing a Holtby or Samsonov choice in 2020, I think at some point we will see Samsonov get a few NHL games this season. If you are considering letting Holtby walk, I do not know how you make that decision without getting at least a few looks at Samsonov at the NHL level.

So let’s say Samsonov gets a few games and looks awesome. Great! Now what? Holding three goalies on the roster for an extended period of time is always a disaster, as no one gets enough practice time. Plus, given how close Washington will be against the salary cap, they may not even be able to afford to carry three goalies. At that point, they would have to send Copley to Hershey, which would require him passing through waivers. If he is claimed, then suddenly you have lost that goalie you were planning on exposing to Seattle. So it’s a good thing the Caps have another goalie in Vanecek who they can leave exposed for who fits the criteria laid out by the NHL.

Even if Samsonov takes the NHL by storm and supplants Holtby as the team’s starter, there is no way they trade Holtby before the playoffs. In 2018, Grubauer started the first two games of the playoffs before getting replaced by Holtby. Grubauer was the better goalie down the stretch, but Holtby was the guy who led the team to the Cup. If the Caps are all-in on a Cup run in 2020, you do not trade Holtby even if he has been relegated as the backup and even if it means losing him for nothing at the end of the year. You just do not know how a rookie goalie is going to perform in a situation like that. Having Holtby as the back-up in that situation is a luxury, but if it is one the team can afford, you hold on to it and see where it takes you in the playoffs.

The only way I see trading Holtby during the season as even a remote possibility is if the team is bottoming out and knows it is not going to make the playoffs.

Typically you usually see at least one defenseman and one forward get a letter. With Orpik gone and with Alex Ovechkin wearing the C, I have to think they look on defense to replace Orpik’s A. The obvious candidate in that situation would be Carlson. He’s the guy I would have my money on.

In addition to the ones you mentioned, Martin Fehervary, Kody Clark, Riley Sutter, and Joe Snively are all expected to join Hershey next season. That is in addition to other prospects like Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Garrett Pilon, Beck Malenstyn, Brian Pinho and Shane Gersich who will be returning to the Bears.

Mary B. writes: I used to think I understood icing, but now I’m wondering if something changed I don’t know about. If the puck is touched by or touches a player from either team on the way down the ice, is it no longer icing?

Icing occurs when both teams are at even strength and a player sends the puck from his own half of the ice past the goal line of the opposing team. When it is deflected or touches anyone past the center red line, there is no icing. When it touches a player from the opposing team prior to going past the center red line, there is no icing.

Where it can sometimes get tricky is when the linesmen decide to wash out icing. According to the rules, if a linesman believes a player from the opposing team can play the puck before it crossed the goal line but he chooses not to, it negates the icing. So even if no one touches the puck and it is heading down past the goal line, if the linesman thinks a player could have played it but lets it go looking for the icing, he can still negate the call.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.


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Capitals at Ducks Game 31: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals at Ducks Game 31: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

These teams faced off just two weeks ago, and things got a little crazy. Fists flew, punches were thrown, and tensions were high. 

The Washington Capitals are eager to seal this road trip with what would be their sixth consecutive victory (and ultimately staying 1.00 on this trip westward). 

Atop the league standings and sitting seventh-to-last respectively, the Capitals and Ducks are at very different points nearly two months in to the 2019-2020 NHL season.

Anaheim is 12-12-4 after beating the LA Kings 4-2 Monday night, the only team they are doing better than in the Pacific Division. The Ducks face a crucial point to spur some upward momentum, but will be met by swift Capitals offense (+26 differential so far this season) as well as Norris contender John Carlson, who scored his 100th and 101st career goals in Los Angeles Wednesday night against the Kings. 


What: Washington Capitals vs. Anaheim Ducks

Where: The Honda Center, Anaheim, CA

When: Friday, December 6, 2019 at 10 PM ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Ducks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. (NBC Sports Washington channel finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Ducks game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7


9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: NHL: Capitals @ Anaheim Ducks (LIVE) [NBC Sports Washington Plus]
12:30 AM: Caps Postgame Live (LIVE) [NBC Sports Washington Plus]


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'I look so damn good': Beninati, Laughlin humbled, thrilled by their bobbleheads

NBC Sports Washington

'I look so damn good': Beninati, Laughlin humbled, thrilled by their bobbleheads

The legendary duo of Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will soon be immortalized with their very own bobblehead on Saturday as part of a giveaway for a blood drive being held at MedStarCapitals Iceplex. You can get a good sense of the personalities of the two from their reaction when they first heard about the bobblehead.

"I think it's incredible, I'm totally flattered by it," Beninati said.

"About time," Locker said. "Everyone else has one, I figured I've got longevity here. I thought I would've had one sooner."

"Just kidding," he quickly added.

It's that sense of humor and contrasting personalities that has endeared the duo to Capitals fans for so long. Beninati and Laughlin have been paired together on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals game broadcast since 1994.

Because of their place within the Caps community, it is perhaps no surprise to see them get the notable honor of a bobblehead. Despite the initial jokes, both broadcasters were incredibly honored when approached with the idea.

"It's cool that we were asked to have one," Laughlin said. "I think it's very cool if you get a bobblehead. I thought all the players had got one so I thought maybe someway in the years to come we might have a chance to get one."

Both have enjoyed the process as well.

"The cool thing is I've seen it change from like a clay formation to an early mockup to, ok let's put some paint on it," Beninati said. "I had no idea that these things change so radically from the original first blush look to the finished product."

Both Beninati and Laughlin were shown various iterations of the bobblehead and offered their critiques. The bobblehead was then updated each time leading to the final product which will be given out to participants at Saturday's blood drive.

"It's very tough to get realistic," Laughlin said. "It's a mold, they're doing different things, we went back and forth, I said well I hold my mic in this hand so they changed that, I'm sure Joe had a lot of changes to his."

Beninati indeed had a few suggestions, but not just for his own visage.

While both were thrilled with how the bobblehead began to develop, Beninati could not help but notice just how...young Laughlin looked.

"I was the one who was critiquing his side of the bobblehead the whole time," Beninati said. The biggest question he had: "What are you doing with Locker's hair?"

"It's probably me when I played back in the playing days, but I like it," Laughlin said.

There's a lot of brown hair on that bobblehead which...may not be the most accurate depiction of Laughlin's current look.

"He's laughing because it's Locker minus 30 years which is what he will lord over me and continue to razz me about for the rest of time," Beninati said. "He'll look at it and he'll just start laughing and that's enough, that's what he does."

"I think I look so damn good, so young, way better than Joe B. and that's why I want a single of myself," Laughlin said. "I'm going to cut mine in half."

Regardless of how many years it may have shaved off of Laughlin, it's all in good fun and for a great cause.

The blood drive will be held on Saturday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the time of writing, every appointment for whole blood, double red cell and platelet donations was full.

"We've been blessed for a long, long time.," Beninati said. "The fans have treated us very, very well. Most importantly, I'm hoping that the blood drive is extremely successful. It's something obviously that's needed."