Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby each will get to begin preliminary talks on a contract extension with the Washington Capitals before the start of training camp in September, general manager Brian MacLellan said Wednesday.
Backstrom, a center, and goalie Holtby are each entering the final season of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2020. MacLellan said he expects to talk to each of them after he returns to Washington from his summer home in Minnesota following Labor Day weekend.
"That's coming up here," MacLellan said. "I've checked in with both. It might happen the beginning of September, depending on the timing of me getting back. But it will happen right away (after he returns). … We've got to talk and give both players what we're thinking, get their feelings on the situation and play it out from there."
MacLellan didn't rule out signing at least one of the two before the Capitals open the regular season at the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Oct. 2.
"It will depend on the conversations we have, on how they want to proceed and what they think is best for everybody," MacLellan said.
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Backstrom and Holtby returned to MedStar Capitals Iceplex this week to step up their preparations for the season. Backstrom said Tuesday that though there haven't been any contract talks, he's willing to be patient, even if that means negotiations carry into the regular season.
He and Holtby can each sign a contract of up to eight years. An unrestricted free agent is limited to a seven-year contract with a new team.
"We'll see what happens," Backstrom said. "I'm in no rush. If they're ready and if they want me, I'm sure they're going to come talk to me."
The No. 4 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Backstrom is entering his 13th season with the Capitals. The 31-year-old remained one of Washington's best players last season, second on Washington with 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists) in the regular season and with eight (five goals, three assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, behind Alex Ovechkin, who had 89 points in the regular season and nine in the playoffs.
Backstrom has reached 50 assists and 70 points in six straight seasons and said he would prefer to stay with the Capitals beyond this season rather than explore the free agent market.
"Washington is all I know, and it's been great all these years, so I would love to stick around for a couple more years," he said. "I'm hopeful about it, but we'll see. It's out of my hands, so when the time comes we'll sit down and talk."
Holtby, who turns 30 on Sept. 16, is entering his 10th season with the Capitals after they selected him in the fourth round (No. 93) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He has won at least 30 games for five straight seasons and was 32-19-5 with a 2.82 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and three shutouts last season.
Holtby's 197 wins over the past five seasons are the most in the NHL, but Ilya Samsonov, the No. 22 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is the Capitals' potential goalie of the future, along with goalie prospect Vitek Vanecek, the No. 39 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
MacLellan acknowledged that the development of Samsonov and Vanecek could impact how the Capitals approach Holtby's contract.
"Obviously, contract demands and what we feel [NHL salary cap-wise] we can handle in that position (are factors)," MacLellan said. "And Samsonov has to continue to develop and become the goalie we think he could be."