The consensus feeling after the Washington Capitals were ousted from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs is that goaltender Braden Hotlby won’t be back with the team next season. Social media is flooded with thank you messages to the veteran netminder for all he’s given to the team over the length of his career and fans of the team are having a difficult time envisioning him in a different uniform.
If he had his druthers, Holtby would probably stay with the organization. The business of hockey sometimes has other plans for players. Holtby, when asked if the Game 5 loss to the Islanders could have been his last game with the Capitals: “Certainly a chance it is, but who knows. You live one day at a time and go from there.”
As those single days pass, the Capitals will realize Holtby’s game is not what it once was. And, because the team has their starter in Ilya Samsonov and there is only so much money to go around in a tight salary cap, Holtby will likely have to look elsewhere for what could his last big contract as a 30-year-old.
Andrew Berkshire of Sportsnet was asked:
Where do you think Braden Holtby lands after this season and how much do you think he can command based on the year vs overall career he has had?
Berkshire notes that Hotlby’s situation is an interesting one because there’s some doubt he’s still a legit starter in the NHL after three mediocre seasons. His two wins and five losses in this year’s playoffs, along with a .906. save percentage probably didn’t tell the rest of the NHL that his less-than-stellar regular season was just a one-off. Berkishire suggests Holtby will need to prove he’s still capable and may look at a one-year deal with a team that will give him an opportunity to really turn his game around.
The good news is, there are teams whose goaltending situation is much worse than what Holtby could provide if signed. He would be a drastic improvement for many clubs and even in a very flooded market for netminders, should be able to find work.
The Calgary Flames Need to Make Changes
For the Flames, there could be sweeping changes with the roster before the 2020-21 season gets under way. While a lot of discussion revolves around big names like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, the goaltending is not where it needs to be.
The Flames fell apart in one of the worst losses in modern history and one of the things that stood out in a 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars was the play of both Cam Talbot and David Rittich. Talbot had played fairly well up to that point but he was pulled for an extremely cold Rittich, only to hop back in for the third period after his back up (who most believe is supposed to be the starter) struggled too.
Berkshire notes that Calgary could be a fit for Holtby. He explains:
The team that keeps jumping out to me is the Calgary Flames. Instead of rushing Dustin Wolf, they can bring in Holtby to provide support for David Rittich similar to what Cam Talbot did this season, and if he regains his form the Flames are in a better position to compete than they have been in years.
Talbot is expected to test free agency. Like Holtby, he believes he can be a starter on a regular basis and wants the chance to play somewhere to prove it. The expectation is that he’ll be in a new uniform next season. That means the Flames have a spot open and Holtby could fill it. Still, giving a long-term deal to a goalie who may or may not still have the goods in a tight salary cap situation is a risk. A one-year deal might be the best option.
So too, Berkshire points out that a team like Calgary would probably be keen to sign a player with Holtby’s resume. He notes that the Flames might offer the more money than some other clubs. Berkshire notes:
He has a ton of clout from his prime years with a Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup in his trophy case, so the salary might be pretty high despite his past three seasons of being mediocre to bad. But I would be shocked if he wants more than a one year contract or if anyone is willing to give more.
And, if it’s not about the money, Calgary isn’t that far from Holtby’s hometown of Lloydminster either.
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