Nostalgia is one hell of a feeling. It can make awful movies seem good. It can make stupid songs seem great. Foods taste better for some reason. And, of course, it can make you look back at a situation fondly even though that given situation can be a very stupid thing. The Washington Capitals and Caps fans need to be careful of nostalgia this offseason, and going forward.
The Capitals are currently in “cap hell”. This franchise has players, and for that matter important players to sign and they don’t have the cap space to do so. To be specific, Washington has just under $10m in cap space. It is widely assumed that captain Alex Ovechkin will take up all of that and more. Most assume it will be about $10m, if not a little over that.
That leaves absolutely nothing for goaltender Ilya Samsonov who is a Restricted Free Agent this summer and no doubt in store for a raise. How big of a raise is just about anyone’s guess. That also leaves nothing for a potential backup. The Caps lost Vitek Vanecek in the expansion draft, it looks unlikely that Henrik Lundqvist will ever suit up for Washington and Craig Anderson reportedly ready to hang up the pads.
The only way the Capitals are going to be able to get some cap room, or shake this team up is make a fairly significant trade. Most eyes go to Evgney Kuznetsov when talking trades for the Caps. It seems bizzare to go into next season with mostly the same team that has gone out in the first round three straight seasons.
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Not only has this team been eliminated in the first round three years in a row, they have seemed to put forward some lackluster efforts. I’m not exactly sure how you sell bringing that team back once again.
Moves need to be made. To stay in contention though, these moves need to be smart. Something that would not be smart is going towards that thing we talked about earlier, nostalgia.
There is seemingly one guy who fits this bill and it is very much a team need at the moment. Braden Holtby. Holtby is adored by this franchise and fanbase, and for pretty obvious and good reasons. He was the longtime starter for the Capitals, won a Vezina award in 2016 and helped the Caps win their first Stanley Cup in 2018. He also made some kind of save at some point in that series that was, alright I guess.
For all of those reasons Holtby will always be a legend in D.C. However, the reason Holtby is no longer a Capital is for several reasons. One, you already have a talented young goaltender in Ilya Samsonov. Two, Holtby is not getting any younger, even if he is just 31 or will be 32 next season. Three, His play and numbers have been, to put it nicely, not good over the last few seasons. The third reason being the most important here.
Here is Holtby’s last four Goals Against Average.
Here is Holtby’s last four save percentages.
If you put reputation aside, would you sign someone with those numbers? The .911 save percentage is pretty good, especially considering the higher GAA that season, but that is one number over four seasons.
To continue looking at Holtby we can go into his stats a little more. Last season among goalies who played 1,000 minutes or more Holtby had the second worst save percentage while 5v5 at .892. His Goals Saved Above Average was also second worst at -14.59. His high danger save percentage was a league worst .747 and his high danger goals saved above average was also league worst at -11.94. The next lowest number was Carter Hart at -9.05.
Holtby’s team, the Vancouver Canucks were not a good team this past season. But his numbers weren’t doing a whole lot to help them either.
Holtby’s numbers in his last years on the Capitals weren’t that great either. In his last season on the Capitals he has a 5v5 save percentage of .905 which was 49th out of 54 goalies who played 1,000 or more minutes. His GSAA was -14.70, 52nd out of 54. His high danger save percentage was .786, which was 50th. His High Danger Goals Saved Above Average was also -11.39, the second worst that season.
I don’t mean to pick on Capitals legend Braden Holtby. My point is simply this. You move on from players for a reason. Once you move on, it’s rarely a good idea to go back to them.
The Canucks could buyout or trade Holtby. That should tell you all you need to know. If your team is great on defense, maybe going after Holtby is a good idea. Maybe the New York Islanders will like him. He can get back together with Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn, two guys that Holtby had his best years with. He’d also be behind a great team.
Two other Capitals who have moved recently or could be moved include Jay Beagle and Nate Schmidt. Again, neither makes sense for this Capitals team other than to make yourself and your fanbase feel good and to get a big hit of that nostalgia. Nostalgia won’t help your team. If you need some examples of this ask the late 2010’s Blackhawks who brought back players from their Cup winning days and it got them nowhere.
The Capitals need to focus on getting younger, getting cheaper and while doing both find a way to stay contenders. Going after former players is not the way to go.