As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 4: Braden Holtby, Goaltender
2014-15 Salary: $2 million [$1.85 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 48 games, 23-15-4, 4 shutouts, 2.85 goals-against average, .915 save percentage, 2 assists, 7 penalty minutes
Projected 2014-15 stats: 66 games, 33-21-8, 5 shutouts, 2.52 goals-against average, .920 save percentage, 4 assists, 8 penalty minutes
Analysis: As one of three Capitals entering their final season before restricted free agency [Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are the others], Holtby is facing a crucial season in his young career. Is he the fearless No. 1 goalie who came within one win of getting the Capitals into the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals? Or is he the inconsistent netminder who struggled throughout much of last season, opening the door for Philipp Grubauer to contend for the starter’s role? With Michal Neuvirth no longer in the picture and Justin Peters on the roster as their clear-cut backup, the Capitals have removed any potential distractions from Holtby and clearly want him to grab the role of No. 1 goalie. It is no secret Holtby was adversely affected by the changes the Caps’ coaching staff made to his game last season when he was asked to play deeper in his net and he began allowing long-range goals. That eroded Holtby’s confidence and led to musical chairs in the Caps’ goalie crease. The arrival of goalie guru Mitch Korn should pay big dividends for Holtby, who is at his best when he is challenging shooters and aggressively handling the puck around his crease. When active, Holtby can act as a third defenseman, pushing the pace for a team that wants to improve its possession game under Barry Trotz. Approaching his 25th birthday, Holtby has a chance to recapture the promise that followed him into last season and take a major step in his career.