Outside Kettler Capitals Iceplex hang incredibly large, two-story banners of some of the most legendary Capitals. Two weeks ago one of those banners bore the image of defenseman Mike Green, who for years faced motorists on Glebe Road alongside Rod Langway and Alex Ovechkin.
On Friday, with the help of a cherry picker, a banner of goaltender Braden Holtby replaced the empty space once occupied by Green. Was it an early indication the Capitals and their 25-year-old goaltender have moved closer to on a long-term contract that will keep Holtby in the nation’s capital into his 30s?
In a brief text late Friday night, Holtby’s agent, David Kaye, said there is “nothing to report” on contract talks with Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, who two weeks ago at the NHL draft said he had made a “huge” and “competitive” offer to Holtby.
Apparently, it wasn’t huge enough because one week later Holtby and fellow restricted free agent Marcus Johansson filed for salary arbitration.
NHL teams can continue negotiating with their players right up until their arbitration hearings, which are scheduled from July 20 until Aug. 4. Last summer 19 of 20 arbitration cases were settled before their hearings.
Theoretically, if the Capitals offered Holtby a deal in the five-year, $27 million range, it would carry an annual cap hit of $5.4 million, 16th among NHL goalies.
If Holtby, who finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting and tied the Caps’ franchise record for wins (41) and shutouts (9), is seeking about $31 million over five years, that would put his cap hit around $6.2 million, seventh among NHL goalies.
If those estimates are close, the two sides could settle on a four-year deal worth $5.8 million, allowing Holtby the chance to make more money on the open market once he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the age of 29.
Or, the case could go to arbitration, giving the Capitals the choice of a one- or two-year award, along with the bad blood that often comes out of arbitration hearings.
Johansson, meanwhile, appears to be headed for a short-term deal of one or two years. The Caps will be looking to keep Johansson’s cap hit close to $3 million, while Johansson (20 goals, 47 points) likely is seeking in the $4 million range.
It is interesting to note that if an arbitrator awards Johansson more than $3.5 million, the Caps have the right to walk away, making Johansson free to sign anywhere while creating additional cap space for the Caps.