Two days before goaltender Braden Holtby and the Capitals are scheduled to go to arbitration, their asking prices have been set it. According to CBC Sports’ Tim Wharnsby, Holtby is seeking an annual award of $8 million, while the Capitals are seeking an annual award of $5.1 million.
Holtby’s agent, David Kaye, did not immediately return a message left for him on Tuesday.
If the two sides can come to an agreement somewhere in the middle they’ll avoid arbitration, which is scheduled for Thursday in Toronto. But the Caps aren’t likely to agree to a $7 million annual salary for their 25-year-old goalie, which means an arbitrator likely will decide how much Holtby will make for the next one or two seasons.
Because Holtby filed for arbitration the Capitals can decide on an award of one year or two years. If the Caps decide on a one-year award, they will be right back where they are next summer, with Holtby retaining his status as a restricted free agent. If the Caps decide on a two-year award, Holtby would become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 27 at the end of that term.
With that in mind, the Caps might choose a one-year arbitration award, presumably with the hope of getting Holtby at a lower cap hit for one season. That way, if Holtby proves he deserves a long-term deal, his reward would come next summer.
It should be noted that the $8 million Holtby is seeking in arbitration, and the $5.1 million the Capitals are proposing to an arbitrator are not necessarily the numbers that have been used in their negotiations. Players always shoot high and teams always shoot low with their arbitration numbers.
The Capitals’ offer to Holtby, which general manager Brian MacLellan described as “huge” in terms of overall dollars and “competitive” with other NHL goalies, likely was in the five-year, $28 million range, putting his average salary at around $5.6 million.
However, if Holtby was willing to agree to a five-year deal, he likely set the bar closer to $34 million, putting his cap hit in the $6.8 million range.
By going to arbitration, Holtby would be sacrificing long-term security for a chance at a bigger payday in two years. He addressed that topic on breakup day following the Caps’ second-round elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Job security is something that doesn’t come around very often in this profession,” Holtby said, “so if you can find some it’s great.
“If you don’t have any ties it’s a lot different. But with family [he has two children] you’d like to stay and get to know the community and get involved. So the longer term the better.
“But at the same time, I expect if it’s a one-year deal I want to earn it for the next year. If it’s longer term I want to earn every single year of it. I’m just happy to be here and happy to be a part moving forward.”
Clearly, Holtby’s asking price through arbitration suggests he believes he should be one of the highest-paid goalies in the NHL. The current list of highest-paid goalies (with cap hits) reads like this, via www.generalfanager.com:
Henrik Lundqvist $8.5 million
Sergei Bobrovsky $7.425 million
Tuukka Rask $7 million
Pekka Rinne $7 million
Carey Price $6.5 million
Cam Ward $6.3 million
Cory Schneider $6 million
Ryan Miller $6 million
Cory Crawford $6 million
Aside from Schneider and Rinne, every goalie who is making $6 million or more has won a Vezina Trophy (Lundqvist, Bobrovsky, Rask, Price, Miller) or a Stanley Cup (Rask, Ward, Crawford).
Holtby, who earned $2 million last season, finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting last season, matching franchise records in games played (73) and wins (41). Among goalies with 50 or more starts last season, he finished fourth in goals-against average (2.22), seventh in save percentage (.923) and tied for second in shutouts (9).