The biggest free agent fish has now been landed, but he was a restricted free agent, so it should come as no surprise when Braden Holtby re-signs with the Washington Capitals.
Holtby and the Capitals held their arbitration hearing on Thursday, where the team's number one keeper went in looking for around $8 million per season, while the Capitals were hoping for something in the $5 million neighbourhood for a 1-year deal.
In the end, it was a 5-year deal signed, worth $30.5 million in total, which works out to be a $6.1 million cap hit per season.
The 25-year old keeper firmly established his hold on the number one job in Washington, coming in as the number two player in hockey pool scoring last season. He appeared in 73 regular season games, posting 41 wins, 9 shutouts and 2 assists for 102 points. Holtby trailed the leader, Montreal's Carey Price, by only 5 points at the end of the year, when it was all said and done.
The run did extend into the playoffs, where the Capitals netminder took the team into the second round, losing to the Rangers in seven games, but not to the fault of the keeper.
The Washington Capitals organization is doing their best to fine tune the formula, which allowed Holtby to excel in 2015, adding T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to the mix, looking for more playoff success, more than anything.
I think it's fair to assume that the Capitals are going to let their pillar in their net take as many minutes as he likes, as they try to flex their muscle in the Eastern Conference races.
It's hard to project gains, when you're the number two guy and you play such a volatile position, like goaltending, which has as much teammate support, as it does individual skill. If Holtby can keep his minutes up to a premium, he should be able to repeat the win totals, but shutouts are a tough thing to project. I think he's in the mix for another stellar season, but I'm not 100% sure how high I am willing to take him... yet.