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The NHL is officially expanding to Seattle, what it means for the league and for the Capitals

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USA TODAY SPORTS

The NHL is officially expanding to Seattle, what it means for the league and for the Capitals

The worst-kept secret in hockey is now official. The NHL will expand 32 teams as the league’s Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an expansion franchise to Seattle.

“Today is an exciting and historic day for our League as we expand to one of North America’s most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We are delighted to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family. And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL.”

When the league initially expanded to 31 teams, it was thought a 32nd franchise to Seattle was not far behind. The price tag for the new expansion team is $650 million, up from the $500 million Vegas paid for the Golden Knights.

The new Seattle team will begin play in the 2021-22 season in the Pacific Division. In addition, the league also officially announced that the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division in order to keep the divisions balanced at eight teams per division.

This will mean another league-wide expansion draft is coming during the 2021 offseason. The NHL has already stated the same rules as the Vegas draft will apply.

The Capitals currently have no players with movement clauses in their contracts meaning they will not be forced into protecting any player from that expansion draft. Washington currently has seven players on its NHL roster who will be still under contract during the summer of 2021: Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny. In addition, Travis Boyd, Madison Bowey and Jonas Siegenthaler will all be restricted free agents, meaning the Caps will retain their signing rights assuming those players receive qualifying offers.

There are some big names missing from that list as Alex Ovechkin’s current contract is set to expire at the end of the 2020-21 season and both Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby’s contacts will expire in 2020.

With an expansion draft looming, every signing any team makes from now until 2021 will be viewed through the prism of the expansion draft. Many veterans are likely to seek no-movement clauses while discussing new contracts which will protect them from the expansion draft. Are older veterans worth re-signing if it means having to protect them over younger in the expansion draft?

Seattle may not be coming to the league until 2021, but the impact of their addition is going to be felt right away when it comes to negotiating table.    

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Capitals won't discuss contract extension with Alex Ovechkin until after playoffs

Capitals won't discuss contract extension with Alex Ovechkin until after playoffs

Alex Ovechkin was always going to be eligible for a contract extension on July 13, but current circumstances have created an unprecedented situation. 

The Capitals will begin Round Robin play Monday and if everything goes well, will play into late September. Until the playoffs conclude, the team won't be discussing an extension with their franchise player. 

"We're waiting until after the playoffs to see how everything pans out here," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said, per NHL.com's Tracey Myers. "I think it's constantly been changing the whole year. I don't think anybody could have predicted. We're going to wait and assess where we're at at the end of the year and make decisions then."

This echoes Ovechkin's sentiments on the day he became eligible for a new deal, where he said was "not even thinking" about it. 

RELATED: PLAYING IN EMPTY ARENA WON'T BE A PROBLEM FOR HOLTBY

It doesn't appear Ovechkin's future with the team is in jeopardy, as neither side has shown any intentions of not coming together on a deal. It just seems like a timing issue during a year where everything was thrown off completely by a global pandemic. 

There's also an issue fo the salary cap. If Ovechkin wants a long-term deal for big money, the flat cap will make it difficult for the Caps to realistically make that happen. Of course, you make things work for a player of Ovechkin's caliber, but the challenges still remain. 

For now though, Ovechkin and the Caps as a whole can focus on winning another Stanley Cup. They can talk money later. 

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Why playing in an empty arena won't be a problem for Braden Holtby

Why playing in an empty arena won't be a problem for Braden Holtby

There are a lot of unknowns heading into the 2020 postseason, but one of the biggest unknowns has been how the goalies will play. A pause of several months in which no one could get on the ice was hardest on the goalies who could essentially do nothing to simulate their play on the ice or keep their bodies ready for game action when they returned. According to Braden Holtby, however, it’s so far, so good.

Holtby turned aside 12 out of 13 shots in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He looked more poised and confident than when the season was paused.

For him, the long layoff wasn’t an issue. He had plenty of time to prepare during optional workouts.

“I think it's been long enough that [goalies have] been able to be on the ice,” Holtby said. “I mean, it's coming up on two months. That's plenty of time. Obviously it was a little different getting back into just the game routine from practice. That's always one of the challenges when you have a long layoff. But I felt pretty comfortable out there.”

The only adjustment for goalies, however, is not just about getting onto the ice, it’s also about adjusting to a new setting.

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For the first time in the NHL, these players will be playing in front of no fans. That will affect some players more than others and...well...let’s just say the lack of fans will not be an issue for Holtby.

“Actually, I didn't feel different at all,” Holtby said referring to playing in front of an empty arena. “Felt pretty normal. A few of the guys were saying on the bench it's kind of a hard time which obviously as a goalie you don't have to deal with. I was quite surprised, it seemed like a normal game.”

In addition to the crowd noise -- added to the broadcast but not heard by the players in the arenas -- the seats in the arena were covered with banners to give a more decorative background as opposed to empty seats.

While this was done to make the arena more aesthetically pleasing to the fans watching at home, Holtby described an unintended benefit to the covered seats.

“The sightlines are nice,” Holtby said. “At least they backdropped it, they put up this grey. That helps a lot. A lot of the buildings you go into with the black seats so if it's the start of the period or something and no one's sitting down yet, you lose a lot of pucks in those seats. You don't have to deal with that here which is nice.”

Holtby struggled in the regular season, but the Caps’ championship hopes lie very much on his shoulders considering Ilya Samsonov is out with an injury suffered prior to training camp. Any advantage he can get for the playoffs will be welcome for the team. It's a good sign that he seems very cool and relaxed about the NHL's new setting.

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