The Vancouver Canucks have signed goaltender Braden Holtby to a two-year contract reportedly worth $8.6-million with an annual average value of $4.3 million, according to David Pagnotta.
Holtby is a veteran of 10 seasons all spent with the Washington Capitals who drafted the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, native in the fourth round, 93rd overall in 2008.
Holtby has owned the starting job in Washington since the 2012-13 season when he played 36 games for the Capitals and played all seven games for the team come playoff time.
Over his 10 seasons with the Capitals, Holtby played 468 regular season games with a 282-122-46 record, 2.53 goals against average (GAA) and .916 save percentage (Sv%). He also added 35 shutouts during the regular season – tied for 54th all-time in the NHL.
As for the playoffs, he racked up a 50-46-1 record in 97 games over eight years. He has a career 2.13 GAA and .926 Sv% and seven shutouts over that span.
At 31, Holtby still has some quality hockey ahead of him and while his playoff numbers – at least in the win-loss column – could use a boost, his career numbers in the regular season do make him a legitimate starter at the NHL level.
Samsonov’s Emergence Makes Holtby Expendable
What didn’t help Holtby’s future in Washington was the sudden emergence of goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov in 2019-20. The 23-year-old’s NHL career has been a long-time coming for the Capitals who took him 22nd overall in 2015.
In 2019-20, he debuted and played 26 games for the Capitals. He finished with a 16-6-2 record, a 2.55 GAA, .913 Sv% with one shutout.
While it’s far from legitimizing him as the starter in Washington, it was enough to allow the team to let Holtby walk – especially in a season with the flat salary cap.
Why Holtby Works for Canucks
With the signing it’s clear the Canucks had no intention on bringing back last year’s starter, Jacob Markstrom who took to the market on Friday with the rest of the free agent class.
What makes the Holtby signing increasing important for the Canucks is that it comes with a low AAV that will allow them to continue to improve their team in other areas after a season that exceeded the expectations of most outside of the organization.
On top of that, as mentioned before, Holtby is just 31 years old. While the two-year deal means that he will be up for renewal in just a couple of seasons, it also gives him a fresh start and at a time when he’s still able to perform at the top of his game.
Better yet, the addition of Holtby also allows the Canucks to take their time when it comes to Thatcher Demko. Demko, who is just 24, was pushing Markstrom last season and will likely play a big role between the pipes for the Canucks down the road. But with Holtby there to take the reigns the next two seasons, Demko can develop and become a legitimate NHL goalie without having to rush into the role.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.