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Holtby due for a big raise, but how big?

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Holtby due for a big raise, but how big?

In the end, Henrik Lundqvist was one save better than Braden Holtby.

Over the course of seven thrilling games between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, all of them decided by one goal, Lundqvist allowed 12 goals on 223 shots, while Holtby allowed 13 goals on 236 shots.

“He was outstanding,” Lundqvist said of Holtby. “For me personally it was a great challenge to try to match that and stay in the game. … I [was] thinking about that all series, because Holtby has been playing that well.”

At the conclusion of two playoff rounds, featuring 69 playoff games between 16 teams, Holtby and Lundqvist lead all starting goaltenders with an identical save percentage of .944.

Lundqvist ranks first among playoff starters in goals-against average [1.60], while Holtby ranks second [1.71].

Here’s one more stat: Lundqvist made $11 million this season and carries a cap hit of $8.5 million, both highest among NHL goalies. Holtby made $2 million, with a cap hit of $1.85 million, ranking 32nd and 33rd among NHL netminders.

In all likelihood, that is about to change.

As a restricted free agent, Holtby is poised to cash in on a contract that could make him among the highest paid goaltenders in the league.  

“I think everybody has seen how Braden has been elevated as an elite goaltender in this league,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after Wednesday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers, in which Holtby stopped 37 of 39 shots. “Great work by [goaltending coach] Mitch Korn.

“I think going head-to-head against a great goaltender like Lundqvist, he’ll just learn from that. Holts was great. Our backbone all year. He’s played in more games [86] than anybody in the National Hockey League this year. He’s turning into our DNA, if you will. Great character, great work ethic and that’s just going to make us stronger as an organization.”

Holtby finished the regular season ranked first in the NHL in games played [73], games started [72], shots against [2,044] and saves [1,887]; he was tied for second in wins [41] and shutouts [9]. And, among NHL goaltenders with 40 or more games played, he ranked fourth in goals-against average [2.22] and seventh in save percentage [.923].

That means big bucks for the 25-year-old father of two from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.

Throughout the season, Holtby brushed off questions about his pending contract situation, saying it would take care of itself once the season ended.

Now that it has, it’s fair to suggest that, based on comparables, Holtby’s value could be somewhere in the $6 million range. It all depends on the approach taken by Capitals management.

Because Holtby is a restricted free agent making more than $1 million, the Capitals are obligated to give him a qualifying offer equal to his current $2 million salary by June 25.

But even though Holtby is two years away from unrestricted free agency, it seems more likely the Caps would reward him with a long-term contract, perhaps in the five-year range. If the Caps believe Holtby is an elite goalie and part of their DNA, they could pay him accordingly.

Lundqvist is the highest-paid goalie in the league with a cap hit of $8.5 million, followed by Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne [$7 million], Carey Price [$6.5 million], Cam Ward [$6.3 million], Cory Crawford and Ryan Miller [$6 million], Semyon Varlamov and Kari Lehtonen [$5.9 million] and Jonathan Quick [$5.8 million].

Based on those figures, if the Caps plan on locking up Holtby for five or more seasons, and they plan on securing RFAs Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer, there could be little left for an unrestricted free agent group that includes Mike Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason.

Burakovsky to Hershey: Caps rookie left wing Andre Burakovsky was re-assigned to the Hershey Bears today and is expected to play in Game 6 of the Bears' Calder Cup elimination game tonight in Hartford against the Rangers' AHL affiliate Wolf Pack. The Bears trail the best-of-seven series 3-2. Defenseman Nate Schmidt rejoined the Bears on Thursday and is also expected to play tonight.

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lodge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?