Shortly after reaching an agreement on a five-year, $30.5 million contract for 25-year-old goaltender Braden Holtby, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan joined a conference call with reporters to discuss the arbitration process, his thoughts on Holtby, and how today’s signing impacts the future of restricted free agent Marcus Johansson.
Here are some highlights from the conference call:
On what led to an agreement before an arbitrator’s ruling:
I think the arbitration process kind of forced both parties to look differently at how they were viewing the valuation part. It became a little easier to negotiate the final number after that process. The arbitration process for the goalies, I think, is a difficult one because there are limited comparables and some of the contracts are a little awkward and some (like Sergei Bobrovsky’s four-year, $29.7 million extension) are signed in midseason. It’s hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison. I think we were kind of close, we got apart, and then the arb process helped solidify numbers for both parties.
On why the contract is structured with Holtby earning $6.5 million next season ($3.5 million base salary, $3 million signing bonus), $7 million in Years 2 and 3, and $5 million in Years 4 and 5:
Their side wanted to front-load it a bit. That was a request by them, a priority of theirs, and we accommodated them in that way.
On the value of Holtby to the Capitals:
He’s a big part of it. You see what he accomplished last year and the affect he had on our team. He’s a perfect fit for what we think we have. He fits well with his teammates. He fits well with the defensemen. The coaches like him. He’s a good teammate, a good person and I think he’s just touching the surface of what he can become. I mean, he’s a 25-year-old goalie that’s just starting to get to the level. I know he has the right attitude and the right work ethic. Obviously we think we have a chance to win a championship with him. We committed to him for five years. I think the certainly of having him in our lineup over the next – whatever window we have to win a championship – is why we’re excited about signing him today.
On if Holtby’s game is at a level comparable to other goalies making similar money (he ranks seventh in average salary):
I don’t know if I’d call it elite. It’s above average, definitely. I mean, he’s top 10 in wins (41) and goals-against (2.22) and save percentage (.923) and shutouts (9). I think he has potential to be top five, top two.
On if the two sides were set on five years:
Yeah, I think. We went there right away. At times we were looking at four-year deals and six-year deals. It went back and forth. Five was a number in between and both parties felt comfortable with it.
On concerns it would go to a ruling on Saturday:
I don’t know about concerned. I think we were comfortable with where we had him values. We were OK with taking a one-year deal. Our preference was the five years, but it was important for us to get a number that worked for us for five years.
On Holtby playing a club record 73 games last season:
Obviously, it proved he can handle a workload, which is a challenging thing. I think his ability to handle that workload, the ability to compete at that level. The way he handled the playoffs, I think he turned it up a notch and took his game to another level. I think everything that’s gone on this past season solidified our confidence in him to give him a five-year deal.
On Holtby’s development over the years, from a fourth-round draft pick in 2008 (93rd overall) to a No. 1 goalie:
I think he’s been pretty consistent in what he’s done. He’s always been competitive in more of a quiet way, a work ethic way. You can tell it matters to him. He’s a good team guy. All the values he shows now he’s always had. I think there’s probably been some inconsistencies, and I think there’s also been some inconsistencies with our team, too, that affect what’s gone on with him. He’s been a big part of what we’ve had going on both good and bad through the years. Like I said, he’s 25 years old and he continues to get better.
On, with $4.2 million in cap space, what he anticipates with Marcus Johansson, who has an arbitration hearing set for Wednesday in Toronto:
Same sort of process. As we get closer and both parties go through their arbitration process, I think you get a better feeling for the value of the player. Hopefully we can come to an agreement before then but again, we’re willing to go through the whole process and keep negotiating. I think (contract talks) are status quo from last time.
MORE CAPITALS: Holtby gave up short-term money for long-term security