As the chances of re-signing Jacob Markstrom got slimmer and slimmer, the Canucks went out and nabbed veteran netminder Braden Holtby on Friday with a two-year, $4.3 million deal.
“We are pleased to add Braden, an experienced and established goaltender, to our roster,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning in the team’s news release. “Braden is a Stanley Cup champion, brings leadership and has demonstrated the ability to rise to the occasion in big games. He will be an important part of our team.”
The 2016 Vezina Trophy winner is heading west after 10 seasons with the Capitals, where he posted a 282-122-46 record, 2.53 goals-against average and .916 save percentage along with 35 shutouts. His tenure also included the aforementioned Stanley Cup championship in 2018 and the 2017 William M. Jennings Trophy.
He is coming off one of the worst seasons statistically of his career as his GAA went above 3.00 (3.11) and save percentage went below .900 (.897) for the first time in his career.
“Obviously last year was a bit of a struggle at times. It didn’t go as planned,” he said on a call with reporters. “Really after things kind of shut down, it was kind of a blessing in disguise that way that myself and Scott Murray, our goalie coach, were able to really break things down and find some different ways to train.
“When we came back, I felt as good as I have in a long time. I think that’s just the way things go sometimes. They’re up or down. You just keep working as hard as you can. The way last season was, especially at the end, I felt really strong and excited to keep going that way with the start of a new season.”
Adding Holtby brings a veteran presence and fail-safe for head coach Travis Green. It’s expected that Thatcher Demko will get more time in net after his star-in-the-making performance in the bubble. While Holtby and Demko will probably split time in a 1A/1B setting, having the veteran there to mentor and back up the young goalie will be a plus for the Canucks.
“You can only be viewed as a leader if you actually lead. That’s always been my goal,” said the five-time All-Star. “The older you get, the more you play, that experience can help you if you use it in the right ways and can help others and help other teammates and the team in general. My goal is to use that.
“It’s not going to be a crutch because you really only live in today. The past is only useful for the moment. It’s not much to dwell on it. I’m going to try and use that to the best of my abilities, but it’s more about focusing on the moment.”
A native of Saskatchewan, Holtby also brings a playoff resume on which he has a 50-46 record in 97 games with a .926 save percentage and seven shutouts. He’ll add experience to a team that went on a run during the 2020 postseason and left a lot of hockey fans and pundits impressed.
It’s a strong core in Vancouver and includes the likes of 2019 Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson, 2020 Calder Trophy runner-up Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Holtby’s former teammate in D.C. Jay Beagle, and the newly re-signed Tyler Motte (two-year, $2.45 million contract), who said the combo of Holtby and Demko in net “can be pretty dynamic.”
For Holtby, he’s just ready to go.
“I’m a guy that believes in hard work, competitiveness and a hard style of hockey,” he said. “I think you see a lot of the players that are on the Canucks and I think that [I] fit right into that mold. I just want to bring what I can contribute to that part, that I believe can help win and have success.
“I think it’s going to be a great fit and I’m really excited to get after it.”