Braden Holtby is a $6 million dollar man, but even with a shiny, new contract, he knows the real work has just begun.
In speaking about his new five-year, $30.5 million contract that he signed on Friday, Holtby said the pressure now is now on him to prove that he’s worth every penny of his new contract.
“With last year, it was about trying to prove yourself for a contract,” Holtby said. “This year it’s about trying to prove the contract you’ve got. Every situation is different. It’s in my DNA, I like to work, I like to try and get better, and I’m not worried about that.”
When asked about his new deal – which carries the seventh highest cap hit for a goaltender at $6.1 million per season – Holtby said he doesn’t think in terms of comparisons to other goaltenders. What he wanted was his chance to be in goal for the Capitals on a long-term deal.
“Since day one I’ve wanted to be the guy in the Washington Capitals net, since I got drafted,” Holtby said. “It doesn’t change. I’m just happy to have the opportunity, and like in the past, I still know I’ve got to prove it. As a goalie, you’re only as good as your last game.”
Holtby had his arbitration hearing take place Thursday, but the two sides didn’t reach a deal until Friday afternoon. It was the first time Holtby had headed to arbitration and early reports had said he filed for an $8 million deal. The Capitals, on the other hand, fired back with a reported $5.1 million offer. By Friday, though, Holtby, his agent and Washington had come to a deal.
“The arbitration process with goalies is a difficult one,” said Capitals GM Brian MacLellan. “Because there’s a limited comparables and some of the contracts were signed midseason. It’s hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison. We started kind of close, we got apart, and then after the arbitration process it helped solidify numbers for both parties.”
For both sides, the deal is great. MacLellan admitted that the Capitals conceded in front-loading the contract for Holtby, but they also saw Holtby’s ask come down by quite a bit. In return, the sides also found a term that’s not enough to be worrisome for the organization but lengthy enough that Holtby has security in goal.
With that, the Capitals locked up what could be a big part of their franchise for the foreseeable future. And MacLellan, who is in the second year of building Washington into a contender, couldn’t seem more pleased with the deal.
“You see what (Holtby) accomplished last year and the effect he had on our team, he’s a perfect fit for what we think we have,” said MacLellan. “He fits well with his teammates, he fits well with the defensemen, the coaches like him, he’s a good teammate, a good person and I think he’s just touching the surface of what he can become.”
If this past season was just the surface, then there’s no doubt Holtby can become an elite goaltender, a status both he and MacLellan were asked about. But when Holtby said he wanted to prove himself, he didn’t simply mean becoming an elite goaltender or making sure no one questions whether the Capitals overpaid. He meant winning the last game of the season.
“I don’t want to prove the numbers,” Holtby said. “I want to prove that I’m valuable to the organization, that I can help this team win a Cup. That’s the goal. That’s what my goal has been since I can remember. That’s a challenge that I’m very fortunate to have.”