The immediate future of the Washington Capitals got a little bit more clear on Monday as the team announced that it had re-signed goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman John Erskine to two-year deals.
For Holtby, who was slated to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, the new contract is a sign of confidence from the Caps. The 23-year old netminder started the season slowly and looked at one point like he was falling behind Michal Neuvirth in the pecking order. But Holtby has been terrific as of late and has clearly earned coach Adam Oates‘ favor, starting the team’s last seven consecutive games.
That could mean that Neuvirth will be heading elsewhere, either by the trade deadline or during the summer. He’s young enough to be kept in the fold, but goaltending depth is a strength of Washington’s system, and he’s also a restricted free agent at season’s end. You’d like to think that the Caps would get something for him instead of letting him walk, so don’t be shocked if they take calls for Neuvirth over the next month.
Erskine would have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and we’ve written before that he would have made good trade material if the Caps were force to go into selling mode in a few weeks. His new deal means that’s no longer the case.
At just under $2 million a season for the next two years, Erskine’s contract is just the right kind of commitment to someone who brings a needed element of toughness to Washington’s blueline corps. Unless he ages as rapidly as some of the other Caps veterans (ahem, Roman Hamrlik), he should be a valuable contributor through the first half of 2015.