Another goaltender is set to hit the free agent market, as Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV reports that the Vancouver Canucks will buy out Braden Holtby today. Today is the last day a player could be placed on waivers for the purpose of a buyout during this first window. Holtby has one year remaining on his contract and carries a $4.3MM cap hit. With a buyout, the Canucks would clear $3.8MM of that cap this season, and incur penalties of the following:
- 2021-22: $500K
- 2022-23: $1.9MM
Holtby, 31, never did find his groove in Vancouver, posting a 7-11-3 record and .889 save percentage in 21 appearances. It’s obvious that the Canucks want to move even further toward Thatcher Demko as their full-time starter, and clearing some cap off the books this year will help fit in new contracts for Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. It’s been two straight seasons of sub-.900 save percentage for Holtby, who will now be on the open market once again looking for work.
There had been some reported interest in the veteran goaltender recently, but the Canucks were obviously unable to find a trade partner before today’s buyout deadline. He now becomes a potential value add as a free agent, if a contending team is willing to bet on a bounce back. Given he’s losing just $1.9MM of the $5.7MM that was owed to him this year, it would seem logical that a team could get him around that price.
The question now is whether Holtby can get back to the level he was at a few years ago. In 2016, he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender, posting an incredible 48-9-7 record with the Washington Capitals. The following season he led the league again with 42 wins and nine shutouts, taking home the Jennings Trophy as the goaltender for the team with the lowest goals-against average. He finished second in the Vezina voting that year, but has not received a single vote for the award since.
It’s hard to overlook his recent struggles, but also difficult to forget how dominant Holtby was at one point in his career. Even after these two brutal years, he still has a .915 save percentage for his 489-game career. In the playoffs, he’s been even better, posting a .926 in 97 appearances, winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Capitals.