The New Normal: What’s Your Franchise Goalie Worth in 2015?

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

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Believe it or not, Braden Holtby is probably actually worth $8 million.

It sounds astronomical. Ridiculous. And yes, when you scan the salaries of the league’s other top netminders – Carey Price at $6.75 million a year, Tuukka Rask at $7.5 million, Pekka Rinne at $7 million, and others – you’re sort of wondering who exactly Holtby thinks he is. (Keep reading if you think I’m crazy for not including Henrik Lundqvist above.)

It’s not unlike when the Ravens made Joe Flacco the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. Remember that? We all thought, ‘Really? Flacco? Over Rodgers or Roethlisberger or either of the Mannings or Brady? Over Brees?’

But a funny thing happened with Flacco – and it would happen with Holtby, too: the rest of his league caught up.

These guys like Flacco and Holtby, or whoever else would come along next, are trying to raise the bar and reset the standard. And it’s probably about time. We always talk about how goaltending is the most important position in hockey… but then why is it still paid like it’s the least important?

Should we be looking at Holtby’s $8 million ask like he’s asking way too much, because it would be a full $1.25 million more than last year’s league MVP, Carey Price? Or shouldn’t we be thinking, ‘Wow, Carey Price is underpaid!’

(NOTE: I know these guys are millionaires. I’m not saying Price is underpaid underpaid. Just that he’s, you know, underpaid considering…)

When Flacco was handed $120.6 million in 2013, he became the highest-paid player in NFL history. That’s a little crazy. Sure, he won a Super Bowl a month before, but nobody was out there thinking he was the best pivot in the game – few think he’s even in the top 10. I don’t.

But hey, that’s evolution. It’s inevitable, and quarterbacks – like goaltenders – really are their team’s most important position.

See: NFL’s Richest Contracts for 2015 (via NFL.com)

Since Flacco smashed the ceiling, he’s fallen to fifth in the NFL. His $20.1 million a season has been eclipsed in just two years by Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers. And very soon, Russell Wilson may just leap frog them all.

This is the new reality – your quarterback, if you really like him, is worth $20 million a year. And the Baltimore Ravens didn’t make Flacco the richest in the game’s history because they think he’s the best in the league’s history – that made him that because he’s worth it to them.

Same deal with Holtby.

See: ‘How much is Braden Holtby really worth?‘ (via Ryan Lambert, Yahoo Sports)

With the exception of a pretty poor 2014 season – when the Capitals were just terrible all-around, documented in that link above by Ryan Lambert – the guy has been one of the game’s very best. Last year, he won 41 games with a 92.3 save percentage and a 2.22 goals-against – both above his career averages, which were already gaudy at 92.1 and 2.44.

In the playoffs, he was even better: Holtby stopped 94.4 per cent of the shots he faced and took the Caps to the Eastern Conference semifinal, losing in seven games to the Rangers. But in that series, he was otherworldly: in five the seven games, he allowed just six goals (total) with a shutout and a 96.4 save percentage.

But I know there are those out there who say they don’t care for stats – those or you who just don’t see Hotlby as being in the same class as Lundqvist or Price or whoever else. But I’m not even talking to you. And it doesn’t matter whether you think Holtby’s top five or top 10 or even top 20… all that matters is, he’s Washington’s starting goaltender.

What’s undeniable is, he’s very, very good. And he wants to be paid as such.

Perhaps you’re worried that goalie contracts are going to get out of hand, that the league won’t be able to handle this not-so-sudden gold rush by the forgotten, often abandoned men in the masks. But it doesn’t matter – in the new NHL, whatever that means, $8 million won’t be that much for your franchise goaltender.

This was obvious a year ago, when PK Subban signed an eight-year, $72 million deal. Or when the Blackhawks signed Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to identical eight-year, $84 million extensions. Those set the standard for defencemen, scoring wingers, and captains for the next decade, when maybe the cap will keep rising and the tide will bring all the ships to its level.

The Canadiens chose to make Subban worth $9 million a year from the backend – even though his defensive play is questioned, even though he’s not the most valuable player on his team (Price is, duh), even though the Habs need forward depth beyond the reliable Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, even though Subban probably will never be the team’s captain. And they did that because he’d get that somewhere else, because maybe in two years that won’t be so crazy.

(And already, Subban’s deal seems sorta normal. And Roberto Luongo’s once-much-maligned deal seems like a steal for Florida, who have a Hall of Fame goaltender for $6.7 million a year.)

Henrik Lundqvist, who’s been the NHL’s top tender consistently from 2006 till now, is currently costing the Rangers $8.5 million against the cap every year. He’s the cream of the crop and he’s getting paid like it.

If Price’s contract was up, I’d expect he’d fetch higher.

And yes, Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford – who both led Tampa Bay and Chicago to a Stanley Cup Final last season – are $2 million (and more) below Holtby’s asking price. But again, if they walked into the room today and had to ink new deals, I’d expect their price just jumped by $2 million, at least.

With Holtby heading to arbitration, he’s not going to get $8 million. The mediator will most likely drop his weight somewhere south of that, probably in-line with the several goalies named in this “article” and probably unfairly so to Holtby.

People don’t think of him like they think of Lundqvist or Price or Rinne or Jonathan Quick, yet. But this is the new normal, and it’s time the Caps pony up while that bridge isn’t burned.