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The Holtby Price Tag?




The Holtby Price Tag?


Salary Arbitration meeting for Washington Caps & Braden Holtby


Braden Holtby entered the 2014-’15 season for the first time in his career, as the undisputed starter for the Washington Capitals. He started 73 games and stood strong through two 7 game playoff series against the New York Islanders and New York Rangers. Now, as a RFA, Holtby hopes to cash in on the best season of his young career. Early reports have said Holtby has put his asking price somewhere near the $8 million mark. The Capitals offered a multi-year deal and now a one-year deal with a price tag closer to $5.5-$6 million.


The instinctive fan reaction maybe to pay the net minder who posted a remarkable Goals Against Average (GAA) of 1.71 in the postseason, despite a losing record. And, if you put on your GM hat it’s easy to understand why Washington’s management group might hesitate to pay such a steep price. Instead you must break it down, as you can assume an arbitrator would, by the numbers. Working up the scale of goaltenders and analyzing both production and compensation hoping to find in it the middle ground of what Holtby deserves.


First, earning $6/year is two time Cup winner Corey Crawford, who has a career GAA of 2.34 in the regular season vs. Holtby’s at 2.44. Crawford also has 45 post season wins and a GAA of 2.23 vs. Holtby’s 16 wins despite an impressive 1.92 GAA. Next would be Cam Ward the 31 year old veteran and Cup winner who’s $6.3 tag has come after 246 career wins and being a shining star for an otherwise floundering franchise in Carolina. Holtby has clearly not earned his stripes like Ward yet but neither have some of the names higher on the list.


The second tiers of goalies we look at include arguably the best in the business. Carey Price ($6.5), Pekka Rinne ($7.0) and Tuukka Rask ($7.0) have each had success over longer tenure than Holtby but let’s look closer at this season specifically. Holtby won 41 games while posting a 2.22 GAA, Rinne 41 wins and 2.18 GAA and Price 44 wins and 1.96 GAA. Price also swept up the Hart, Vezina, Jennings and Lindsay trophies during his epic run. If Holtby can show sustained success at this level it’s not hard to believe the 25 year old could earn the $7 price tag someday.

Boston’s Rask has won 70 games in the last 2 years and has a career 2.16 GAA not to mention 2 Cup appearances. Holtby has 64 wins in that span but has failed to pass the 2nd round of the playoffs as the goalie in D.C. in two appearances (Washington missed the playoffs in 2013-’14).


The highest echelon on this tier includes Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. Quick signed a 10 year/$58 million contract annually worth around $7 million until the back end of the deal. Quick has never won 40 games but did post 36 wins last season. In the two Cup championship years of ’12 & ’14 he won 35 and 27 respectively. Lundqvist is the highest paid goalie in the league raking in $8.5, despite never winning 40 games or a Stanley Cup, he is the brick wall that gives New York a chance to win every night with his career 2.26 GAA. Then, of course there is the outlier in the situation. 26 year-old Sergei Bobrovsky whom Columbus rewarded with a $7.425 contract in January, is that outlier. Holtby and his representation are hoping that this contract stands out to the arbitrator assigned this difficult case. Bobrovsky is young and has never posted great numbers (GP 230, 125 W, GAA 2.51), he won 30 games in ’14-’15 but should this rank him the 2nd highest paid goalie in the league? He did not deserve the pay day he received but Columbus wanted to lock in a future and paid the man.


When all is said and done, Holtby is worth somewhere south of $7 million and any good arbitrator will see that. The other goalies on this list have been winning for 5-7 years in this league or have Stanley Cups to their credit. All except Bobrovsky that is and Holtby is not quite yet Price or Lundqvist. He just could not resist setting his price tag at or above the Bobrovsky’ ransom. The young Holtby may have been best to sign the one year deal and hoped to earn a bigger pay day next season as an UFA. Instead he will more than likely receive a payment more suited to his one year totals from ’14-’15 at $6/$6.5 million and again find himself fighting for a long term contract next season. In today’s salary cap dominated hockey world a goalie receiving such a large payday must not just be good, they must elevate their team to the next level. Holtby will need to prove he can do this, to Washington, to Alex Ovechkin, to the guys that sign his larger paychecks.



* Photo by Getty Images


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