Washington Capitals: What we can learn about Braden Holtby from Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract

Braden Holtby (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Braden Holtby (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Braden Holtby enters the final year of his contract in 2019-20 and his market value just went up. It presents an interesting and complicated process for the Washington Capitals.

In under 365 days, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is scheduled to hit free agency — and we likely just got a glimpse as to what his contract could look like next summer.

At the opening of free agency a few days ago, Sergei Bobrovsky left the Metropolitan Division and signed a seven-year, 70 million dollar contract with the Florida Panthers. Bobrovksy, 30, is a two-time Vezina winning goaltender and a two-time All-Star.

The reason this matters to Washington is because Holtby and Bobrovsky are considered two of the best goaltenders in the sport. And Holtby’s statistics to Bobrovsky over their careers are very similar, which makes for a nice comparable between the two.

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Holtby’s awards are slightly more impressive, as he’s a one-time Vezina winner, a four-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup Champion.

At 29-years old, Holtby has one more year on his six-year, 30.5 million dollar contract. And after a few years at a relatively affordable rate, Holtby is due for a major raise.

Holtby is the eighth highest paid netminder in the league, just a tad above Corey Crawford and Cory Schneider, each of whom make six million dollars per season.

But could Holtby sign for less than Bobrovsky next July? A deeper dive into the numbers suggests it’s possible.

In 24,085 career minutes, Braden Holtby has posted a save percentage of .918, a GAA of 2.47, a 257-108-40 record and 35 shutouts.

Bobrovsky, in 21,804 minutes, has a save percentage of .919, a GAA of 2.46 and a 255-153-37 record. Those two basic stats are remarkably similar.

It’s important to note, however, that Holtby has played on significantly better teams throughout his career and thus has been asked to do less. For example, Bobrovsky has faced 13,363 shots (0.61 per minute) in his career, whereas Holtby has faced 12,101 shots (0.50 per minute) — despite playing just over 2,000 more minutes.

A deeper dive, however, suggests that while Bobrovsky may not be worth the 70 million dollar deal he received, he’s still a more valuable goalie than Holtby in terms of contract dollars.

Through Bobrovsky’s 457 games played throughout his nine-year career, he’s saved 81.65 Goals Above Average. Essentially, this takes into account the number of goals a particular goalie saved above average given his save percentage on the same number of shots.

Through Holtby’s 420 games played, he’s saved 59.5 Goals Above Average.

Meaning, Holtby and Bobrovsky have about a 20 goal difference in that category throughout the course of their careers. Holtby’s average per game is 0.141 and Bobrovsky’s is 0.178. Miniscule, yes, but Bobrovsky has still bailed out his team more than Holtby has.

And over the last three seasons, Bobrovsky has shown to be a better goaltender in the advanced metrics as well.

Starting from the 2016-17 season to 2018-19, Holtby has a save percentage of .914 and a GAA of 2.60 at all-strengths. His High-Danger save percentage was .810 and his High-Danger GAA is 1.64.

Bobrovsky, on the other hand, posted a save percentage of .922 and a GAA of 2.36 in the same time frame. Bobrovsky’s High-Danger save percentage was .856 and his High-Danger GAA was 1.24.

Those numbers tell us that Bobrovsky was better than Holtby for the last three seasons. Specifically, he was better in High-Danger chances where the Capitals have struggled in the last two seasons, and where we can learn the most amount about a goalie’s contributions to a team.

So what do these numbers say, exactly? Mostly, that Holtby hasn’t been as strong of a goalie as Bobrovsky in the last three years (and perhaps over their careers). Meaning, a $70-million dollar deal for Holtby would be a significant overpayment, especially if Bobrovsky’s contract is considered one. 

And as it appears now, the Capitals are prepping to move on from Braden Holtby. Vitek Vanecek re-upped for three more years recently and Pheonix Copley and mega-prospect Ilya Samsonov are under contract for the next two years at cheap rates, too.

Considering the Capitals will be up against the salary cap for the next few years at least, Holtby may have priced himself out of the Capitals pay-range — even if he gets less than what Bobrovsky earned.

Currently, the Capitals have 22,794,872 million dollars to spend next offseason with nine forwards and four defensemen under contract (though those numbers will change with Christian Djoos and Jakub Vrana’s contracts still likely to come in, as well as the salary cap increase). Additionally, Nicklas Backstrom is a free agent next year as well, and at this time, he’s much more valuable to the Capitals organization.

And with Samsonov on the way, it looks as if Holtby’s contract will neither be feasible or financially responsible for the future of the Washington Capitals.

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Which means it’s time to face the sobering fact that it’s time to start savoring each and every Braden Holtby start, because his days look to be numbered in Washington.