The Washington Capitals made two substantial moves on Monday, signing young goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman John Erskine to two-year contract extensions.
Holtby, 23, will earn $3.7 million over two seasons, holding a 1.85 million dollar cap hit per season. Erskine signed for $3.925 million over two seasons, giving him a cap hit of just under two million per season.
“We are pleased to sign Braden to a contract extension,” General Manager George McPhee said of Holtby’s two-year contract extension. “Braden is a young and talented goaltender who has performed very well in both the regular season and the playoffs during his NHL career. We are fortunate to have two excellent young goaltenders on our roster in Washington.”
“It’s the same thing we went through with Michal Neuvirth a couple summers ago,” said McPhee. “Just trying to do it ahead of time, we started it in the summer; it just took a little bit longer to do. We all believe there’s a lot of upside there, a good young goalie and the deal made sense to do it now.”
Holtby almost lead the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Final last season but Washington eventually fell to the New York Rangers in game seven of the quarterfinal. He holds a 19-10-3 career record in the NHL, with a .916 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average.
Holtby spent the NHL lockout playing for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s AHL affiliate, posting a stellar 2.14 goals against average and .932 save percentage through 25 regular season games before joining the Capitals following the resolution of the work stoppage.
With Holtby signed for two more seasons, GM George McPhee now has a decision to make on impending free agent net minder Michal Neuvirth. Washington’s second round pick from the 2006 NHL entry draft has played in seven games compared to Holtby’s eleven, and holds a 3.05 goals against average and .889 save percentage.
“It doesn’t change opinions or anything,” said McPhee on negotiations with Neuvirth. “What we did for Braden is exactly the same thing we did for Michal a couple years ago.”
“You never really want to come down into a stressful summer,” said the newly signed Holtby. “I think that’s the biggest thing is to have that out of the way and focus on hockey now. It just feels good to have it down and now we can move forward.”
“My job is to focus on the games and make sure I’m performing well no matter what the contract numbers are. That’s why my agent looks after; I look after the hockey part.”
Defenseman John Erskine brings a solid defensive presence to the back-end of the Capitals’ blue line and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves either. He’ll likely be a lock for the third pairing next season even with free agent additions and is a solid force on the penalty kill.
“He’s played very well this season] and he’s played very well for us over the years,” McPhee said of resigning Erskine. “I thought he should of played more last year, but unfortunately he didn’t. He’s a good player who plays tough and keeps people honest.”
“He’s been here seven years now and he’s going to be here a couple more years, at least. He’s really improved as a player, he plays a lot now, he’s a good penalty killer, brings some size and some reach and some grit that we like. It was a contract that made sense for us so we were willing to go ahead and do it.”
As the Capitals near the trade deadline, Washington holds four more restricted free agents that need to be signed prior to next season. Michal Neuvirth, Karl Alzner, Tomas Kundratek and Marcus Johansson all could receive new deals with the Capitals for next season.
1. Forward Brooks Laich remains out and George McPhee admitted on Monday he was “concerned about it.”
2. Forward Jason Chimera left the morning skate but McPhee said “he should be fine.”
3. Marcus Johansson is “progressing” and the Capitals are waiting to see how he feels over the next couple days.
4. Braden Holtby gets his seventh straight start tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
5. The Hershey Bears play three games this weekend against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Norfolk Admirals and Syracuse Crunch.