The agent for Braden Holtby was so convinced that an arbitrator would decide the fate of his client that after Thursday’s hearing in Toronto, he packed his bags and headed for Western Canada.
David Kaye’s trip, however, got sidetracked on Friday when the Capitals avoided a one-year arbitration ruling by agreeing to a five-year, $30.5 million contract that carries a $6.1 million cap hit. The arbitrator was expected to make a ruling by 1 p.m. on Saturday.
As part of the agreement, Holtby will receive a $3 million signing bonus to go along with his $3.5 million salary in 2015-16. He will reportedly follow with a salary of $7 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and $5 million in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Holtby’s average annual salary of $6.1 million ranks seventh among NHL goaltenders, behind Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million), Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.425 million), Tuukka Rask ($7 million), Pekka Rinne ($7 million), Carey Price ($6.5 million) and Cam Ward ($6.3 million).
Holtby led all NHL goalies in games (73) and minutes played (4,247) and his 41 wins matched a franchise record set by Olie Kolzig.
He went into negotiations seeking a long-term deal and both sides had agreed on a five-year term. The issue was how much Holtby would cost the Capitals and by avoiding an arbitration ruling, the Capitals probably saves themselves some money, at least in the short term.
Holtby, who was seeking $8 million in arbitration, likely would have been awarded somewhere between $6.3 million and $6.5 million, far more than the $5.1 million figure submitted to the arbitrator by the Caps.
Essentially, Holtby gave up the short-term gains of a one-year contract for the security of a five-year deal that will carry a substantial raise over the $2 million he earned last season.
The five-year agreement also carries Holtby, 25, three years past his free-agent age of 27.
Holtby’s signing leaves the Caps with roughly $4.2 million, which is what an arbitrator could award Marcus Johansson if he goes to a hearing on Wednesday in Toronto.
The difference between Holtby and Johansson is that the Capitals wanted to sign Holtby long-term all along, but are more likely seeking a one- or two-year deal with Johansson, who set career highs in goals (20) and points (47).
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