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Capitals Make Smart Gamble, Let Holtby Test Free Agency

Braden Holtby will test free agency this offseason in a what seems to be a calculated move by the Washington Capitals.

Likely thinking that Braden Holtby will have a hard time getting the kind of money he’s looking for in free agency, Washington Capitals GM Brian McLellan confirmed today with reporters that the goaltender will test unrestricted free agency in October.

McLellan said when asked about Holtby’s status, “I would expect him to go to free agency.” He added:

“I think the goalie market is probably a little unusually deep this year. I talked to his agent last week briefly about where he’s at and the kind of opportunities he’s looking for. I would assume he goes to free agency and we’ll keep in contact with him throughout the free agency and see if he’s getting what he wants.”

McLellan didn’t come out and say he’s trying to get Holtby for a whole lot cheaper than the netminder might want to take, but that’s got to a logical assumption here.

Smart Gamble By the Capitals

You can sense in McLellan’s voice this is a strategic decision by the Washington Capitals. Knowing that the goaltending market is deep this offseason, it feels as though Holtby has given an indication as to the type of money he might be looking for on an extension, and the Capitals aren’t prepared to meet those demands in a flat cap world. It would actually benefit the team if Holtby goes out into the market, sees that the money isn’t there for his services and circles back to the team.

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby Washington Capitals

Holtby is coming off a disappointing regular season, going 25-14-6 in 48 games (47 starts). He had the worst GAA (3.11) and save percentage (.897) of his NHL career and that may scare off some teams at a certain price point. If the Capitals see Holtby come back to the negotiating table, it means he likely struck out on getting the deal he wants, which gives the Caps all sorts of leverage in any extension talks.

Holtby didn’t rule out the notion of coming back to the only NHL team he’s ever played for, but seeing as how the Capitals are going to run with Ilya Samsonov as their starting netminder, Holtby might be looking for a chance to be a starter somewhere. He does understand that he may have already played his last game for the team.

“Certainly a chance it is,” Holtby said. “Who knows? Live one day at a time and go from there.”

Next: Anton Khudobin Absolutely Going to Get Paid in NHL Free Agency

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