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Stars Sign Goaltender Braden Holtby to 1-Year, $2M Contract

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Holtby joins a crowded crease in Dallas in what is one of the most stunning free agency moves of the day (so far).

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

In what is one of the most stunning moves across the NHL today, the Dallas Stars have officially signed goaltender Braden Holtby to a one-year deal worth $2M.

After spending his entire career with the Washington Capitals, Holtby signed a two-year, $4.3 AAV contract with the Vancouver Canucks last season coming off of a career low .897 SV% in 48 games. After performing even worse in Vancouver — .889 SV% in 21 games — the Canucks opted to buy out the last year of his contract.

What makes this move so puzzling is that the Stars already have three NHL goaltenders on the roster: Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, and Jake Oettinger. Bishop, who did not play all of last season while recovering from injury, waived his NMC for the NHL Expansion Draft so that the Stars could protect Khudobin. Oettinger was not eligible to be selected and thus did not require protection.

Previously, it was speculated that Bishop would not be ready in time for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season. Now that the Stars have signed Holtby, it’s worth wondering if Bishop is expected to be back at all — it’s quite possible that Bishop has decided to unofficially “retire” and will live out the remainder of his contract on LTIR.

In the meantime, all signs to this point indicate the Stars could head into this season rolling with a Khudobin-Holtby tandem in the NHL while sending Oettinger back to the AHL to serve as starting goaltender for the Texas Stars. Should Holtby continue to underperform, they could always place him on waivers and call up Oettinger to take his place.

The Stars could also explore the trade market for Khudobin. With many teams needing goaltending, and lots of movement in that position, could a team that thinks themselves a contender part with assets for a goaltender that backstopped a team to the Stanley Cup Final just last summer? That’d leave Dallas with a Holtby-Oettinger tandem for this season, assuming Bishop is a no-go. Khudobin, who is coming off a down year (.905 SV% in 32 games), has two years remaining on his contract with a $3.333M cap hit.

Here’s the Stars’ press release:

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed goaltender Braden Holtby to a one-year, $2,000,000 contract.

Holtby, 31, recorded a 7-11-3 record in 21 regular-season games played, all starts, with Vancouver in 2020-21. He finished the season with a 3.67 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.

The veteran of 11 NHL seasons, and a Stanley Cup champion in 2018, has appeared in 489 career regular-season games for Washington and Vancouver, posting a 289-133-49 record with a .915 SV% and 2.58 GAA. His 35 shutouts since he entered the League in 2010-11 are ninth-most among all goalies, and since taking over as started in 2012-13, his 32 shutouts are tied for sixth-most along with Ben Bishop. In 97 career Stanley Cup Playoff contests, he has a 50-46-1 record with a 2.13 GAA, a .926 SV% and seven shutouts.

He has appeared in the last five NHL All-Star Games spanning from 2016-2020, and he was named as a First Team NHL All-Star in 2015-16 and a Second Team NHL All-Star in 2016-17. In 2015-16, he was named the Vezina Trophy winner, given to the player adjudged to be the best at his position, and he helped the Capitals earn the 2016-17 William M. Jennings Trophy, which is given to the goaltender(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.

“We are excited to add Braden to our goaltending group,” said Nill. “We’re looking forward to Braden giving us the elite goaltending that he’s shown he’s capable of throughout his career. He has won every major award a goaltender can win and we are thrilled that a person of his pedigree is joining our organization.”

The 6-foot-2, 214-pound native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan was originally selected by Washington in the fourth round (93rd overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He was signed as a free agent by Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2020.