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Ovechkin contract talks on hold with Capitals, who could keep Holtby

Forward to discuss extension in training camp; Washington not ruling out re-signing goalie, GM says

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Alex Ovechkin does not plan to discuss a contract extension until training camp with the Washington Capitals, who are not ruling out bringing back Braden Holtby for at least one more season, general manager Brian MacLellan said Sunday.

MacLellan said he spoke briefly with Ovechkin about a possible contract extension in the days following the season-ending 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Thursday. They agreed to table the discussions for now.

"We're going to talk when we come back to training camp, continue our conversations," MacLellan said.

The left wing, who turns 35 on Sept. 17, tied David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins for the NHL lead with 48 goals this season and led the Capitals with four goals in five games in the series against the Islanders.

Ovechkin will be entering the final season of a 13-year, $124 million contract (average annual value $9.54 million) he signed in 2008 and can become an unrestricted free agent when it is completed. He has been eligible to sign an extension since July 13 but wanted to focus on the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Not even talking, not even thinking about it because right now we have lots of stuff to do," Ovechkin said that day.

Holtby, who will turn 31 on Sept. 16, similarly wanted to wait until after the playoffs to talk about his pending unrestricted free agency. The Capitals are expected to be tight against the $81.5 million NHL salary cap again next season and, with 23-year-old rookie Ilya Samsonov in place to succeed Holtby as the No. 1 goalie, it seems unlikely he will be re-signed.

But MacLellan didn't rule out figuring out a way to keep Holtby for at least one more season.

"It's still to be decided," MacLellan said of the goalie who won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018. "I think it's going to be difficult, but sometimes opportunities come up that you don't expect, and I think we'd like to play it out and see what happens."

Holtby was 25-14-6 in the regular season but had the worst goals-against average (3.11) and save percentage (.897) of his 10 NHL seasons. Though he played better in the postseason, he was 2-5-1 with a 2.49 GAA and .906 save percentage in eight games, including three games in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

After making 13 saves on 15 shots in Game 5 against the Islanders, Holtby acknowledged it might have been his final game with the Capitals.

"Certainly a chance it is," Holtby said. "Who knows? Live one day at a time and go from there."

MacLellan again expressed interest in re-signing defenseman Brenden Dillon, who was acquired in a trade from the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 18, but said the 29-year-old will explore his options as an unrestricted free agent, and the Capitals will do the same.

"We'll talk to his representatives as we get into free agency as we explore our opportunities, as will he, and then we'll make a decision based on that," MacLellan said.

The Capitals fired coach Todd Reirden on Aug. 23 and MacLellan said they are looking to hire someone with NHL experience.

"We have an experienced group. We need someone to come in and push some buttons on some players -- some good players," he said. "... We're going try and find the best guy we can. Experience will be a factor. And somebody that can hold people accountable and work within a team concept."

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