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Holtby, Capitals discussing contract, Backstrom talks to start soon

Goalie, center each can become unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

NHL Tonight: Capitals Talk

Looking at the contracts of Backstrom and Holtby

Brian Lawton gives his take on whether the Capitals will re-sign Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby

  • 01:23 •

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals have begun discussions about a new contract, and talks with center Nicklas Backstrom will start soon, general manager Brian MacLellan said Thursday.

But with the Capitals set to begin training camp practices Friday, MacLellan sounded content to allow the process to continue through this season.

"I met with Holtby and his agent," MacLellan said of negotiations with the goalie, who will turn 30 on Monday. "We'll continue to talk as the year goes on and we'll see how it develops."

MacLellan said he hasn't talked with Backstrom but will do so during training camp.

"I'll meet with him in a few days here," MacLellan said. "We haven't been able to hook up, but same thing. We're going to communicate with both players. Both guys have been a big part of our organization, a big part of our success, we'd love to keep them both and we're going to play it out until the end here."

Video: Braden Holtby takes the No. 7 spot on the list

Holtby is entering the final season of a five-year contract he signed July 14, 2015. Backstrom, who turns 32 on Nov. 23, is going into the last season of a 10-year contract he signed May 17, 2010. Each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020 and is eligible to sign a contract of up to eight years.

Neither player expressed concern about contract negotiations extending into the season. The Capitals open the regular season on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Oct. 2.

"Communication's always been a thing that we've strived for and we're both on the same page, so it's not going be a distraction at all throughout the year," Holtby said. "We're just focused on playing games and winning games."

Backstrom said he'd be open to signing a new contract before the season begins but that his focus is on getting ready for the season.

"Yeah, I mean, it would be nice, but at the same time I don't even know if they want to extend me," Backstrom said. "We'll see what happens. So we'll take it day by day. Just make sure you (have) a good camp and go from there."

Backstrom is entering his 13th season with the Capitals after being selected by them with the No. 4 pick of the 2006 NHL Draft. He was second on Washington with 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists) last season, behind Alex Ovechkin, who had 89 points (51 goals, 38 assists). Backstrom's eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games during a seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were second on the Capitals to Ovechkin, who had nine points (four goals, five assists).

Backstrom has had at least 50 assists and 70 points in six straight seasons, and has 873 points (231 goals, 642 assists) in 895 NHL games. 

"We've been together since his Day One," said Ovechkin, selected by Washington with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. "The chemistry that we have on the ice is tremendous. Hope he's going stay. All the guys in the locker room love him. He's a leader and a great person as well."

Holtby is entering his 10th season with the Capitals, who selected him in the fourth round (No. 93) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He was 32-19-5 with a 2.82 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and three shutouts in 59 games last season. It was his fifth straight 30-win season, and his 197 wins during the past five seasons are the most in the NHL.

He is 257-108-40 with a 2.47 GAA, a .918 save percentage and 35 shutouts in 420 NHL games.

Holtby was an interested observer when goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who turns 31 on Sept. 20, signed a seven-year contract with the Florida Panthers as an unrestricted free agent July 1 following seven seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky's contract could impact Holtby's next deal.

Also potentially impacting Holtby's contract is the presence of 22-year-old Ilya Samsonov, the No. 22 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft who could be the Capitals' goalie of the future. Washington also has 23-year-old goalie prospect Vitek Vanecek, the No. 39 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Holtby said he hopes to sign a long-term contract to stay with Washington, but he understands it could take some time.

"That's the goal, but my mindset in these situations, you approach it realistically, and Brian and his team have decisions to make that I have nothing to do with," Holtby said. "My job is play as good hockey as I possibly can and hopefully a point comes where they'd like to have me again. But till then, we're ready to get going here and start playing some hockey and creating something special this year."

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and then losing in the first round last season, the Capitals are determined to make another run for the Cup, especially with it possibly being the final season in Washington for Holtby and Backstrom.

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