“Yeah, I would expect him to go to free agency,” MacLellan said. “The goalie market is probably a little unusually deep this year. I talked to his agent last week briefly about where he’s at and the kind of opportunities he’s looking for. I would assume he goes to free agency, and we’ll keep in contact with him throughout the free agency period to see if he’s getting what he wants.”
The remark from MacLellan is not unexpected given the Capitals’ salary cap situation and previous comments from the club. In late August, MacLellan said Holtby’s future was “still to be decided.” When asked about a possible return for the goaltender, he said: “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, who will turn 31 Wednesday, is coming off a five-year, $30.5 million deal that he signed in 2015. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2016 and helped anchor the Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship in 2018. This season, Holtby posted a 25-14-6 record with a .897 save percentage and 3.11 goals against average.
The free agency period will open at noon Eastern time on Oct. 9.
The free agent goalie market appears deep this offseason — Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, Corey Crawford and Holtby all are expected to be available.
The Capitals have Ilya Samsonov waiting in the wings. The 23-year-old netminder suffered an undisclosed injury during the layoff period caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic and did not travel with the team to Toronto for the playoffs, instead staying in Washington to undergo treatment. MacLellan said in late August that Samsonov should be ready for the start of training camp, whenever that may be.
When asked about Washington’s goaltending situation during his introductory news conference, Laviolette was highly complimentary of both netminders.
“Obviously, the goaltending has been a strength for Washington for some time now, led by Holtby,” Laviolette said. “Where that stands right now I’m not sure with him being a free agent. The opportunity to work with or to have in place a young prospect and a young piece like Samsonov is really, I think, great for our organization. He’s a big goaltender. He’s proven that he can play. But this is Day 1 without me seeing the players or being on the ice with them, but I know that it’s been a strength for the organization for quite some time now, and for that, we’re pretty fortunate. I’m looking forward to working with both of them, if that’s the case.”
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