The general manager of the Washington Capitals has thrown his support behind goaltender Braden Holtby as he plays out the final year of his contract with the team.
Brian MacLellan says Holtby is Washington’s No. 1 netminder despite a push this season from 22-year-old backup Ilya Samsonov.
“Holtby’s our guy. I mean, he’s got a Cup, he has a history, he’s been a huge part of our organization,” MacLellan said. “I think what we’ve been trying to do is develop Samsonov and he’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him very well. He’s continually gotten better, he works at his game, he’s calm under pressure.
“We’ve put him in difficult starts lately where we’re on the road and playing against good teams and he’s responded well to that.”
Holtby, 30, has started 30 games this season for the Capitals while posting a 18-7-4 record, 2.99 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
His protegé, Samsonov, has slightly better numbers in almost half the starts, going 12-2-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .921 save percentage over 14 starts.
“Our team’s about Holtby but we’re developing Samsonov and trying to do what’s best for both guys and hopefully they’re both healthy and we can use both down the stretch and into the playoffs,” MacLellan said.
Washington has had a strong season and hold the best record in the league so far at 30-9-5.
MacLellan said the team would be looking at making depth acquisitions at the upcoming trade deadline such as a 13th forward or seventh defenceman.
Holtby is in the fifth and final season of his deal which sees him being paid $6.1 million. Forward Nicklas Backstrom is also in the final year of his contract.
Signing both players in a cap-tight NHL will be a challenge for MacLellan, but he said nothing’s impossible.
“We’re going to do our best effort to keep our team together as much as we can,” he said, indicating there’s been contract discussions with both players’ agents.
“Maybe we do have to make some difficult decisions, but maybe we find a way to get it done too through a trade or a way to create some room. I think we’ll have to play it out, see how well we do at the end of this year and then make decisions off that.”