Less than one week ago, goaltender Braden Holtby and forward Marcus Johansson each filed for player-elected arbitration, joining 21 other restricted free agents across the NHL in exercising their right to third-party salary mediation. The Washington Capitals had extended offers to both by last Sunday’s 5 p.m. deadline, but since they couldn’t agree on deals with either party, arbitration became a last-ditch option for resolution.
“It’s a pressure point that forces parties to negotiate and hopefully the conversations pick up as you get closer to that, and parties become more realistic,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said Saturday, the final day of Capitals development camp.
The sides still have time for negotiations, with Holtby’s hearing scheduled for July 23 on Toronto and Johansson’s slated for July 29, and the overwhelming majority of arbitration cases tend to get settled before that point.
The Capitals’ offer to Holtby — the 25-year-old who tied franchise records for games played, wins and shutouts last season and finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting — has maxed in the mid-$5 million range, while Holtby’s team has countered around $1 million higher, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation.
“I think we’ve made an aggressive offer with Holtby, hoping to get it done sooner than later,” MacLellan said. “I like what we’ve offered. We’ve offered a term deal with a good salary. The total dollars is pretty significant. Unfortunately, I guess you play it out. If you’ve got to go to arb, you’ve got to go to arb. It’s part of the process.”
MacLellan said the Capitals have similarly made an offer to Johansson, one he called “competitive,” but they are also monitoring the market as similar players work on deals. In this way, Washington seems unwilling to set the market value, preferring a wait-and-see approach with the 24-year-old winger, who will be entering his sixth NHL season.
“There’s a few guys in his range that we’re monitoring and we want to get a better indication of what that salary level is coming in,” MacLellan said. “We’ve made him an offer and we feel it’s competitive for what these guys are going to get. If necessary, we’ll go to the arbitration with him too.”
Until then, what more can the Capitals do?
“We’ve gone over comparables,” he said. “We’ve gone over salary. We’ve gone over term. We can keep doing it, I guess. I think we’ll just play it out, see how it works.”
MacLellan also said the Capitals have extended an offer to restricted free agent Chris Brown, who appeared in five NHL games last season, and “I think we’ll get him signed here shortly.”