Pittsburgh Penguins’ Trade Deadline Target: Braden Holtby

Photo courtesy of Dallas Stars Twitter

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The Penguins have spent many years meeting up with the Capitals in the playoffs. They also spent most of that time being big brother to the Caps until Washington finally got over that Pittsburgh hump in the 2017-18’ postseason.  Once the Capitals won that round two series against the Penguins, ending their run for a third consecutive title, it just felt like it was finally time for Washington to win it all. And they did.

For almost every single one of those playoff games, Braden Holtby was the opposing goaltender for the Capitals. With every passing series loss, it was said that the Penguins were deep into Holtby’s head. Finally, when the Caps won, Holtby was the one in net and got to enjoy finally beating the team that had his number when it really mattered.

Now, Holtby’s services could be available at the trade deadline depending on the results of the Stars’ games over the next few weeks. Currently, the Stars sit at 63 points and are on the cusp of a playoff spot. They may not sell, but they have some decisions to make.

They have a handful of  players that will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.. Holtby is among them. A few outlets have linked Holtby to the Penguins but that came before Casey DeSmith’s resurgence.

Regardless, Holtby is 9-10-1 this season with a .912 save percentage and a 2.78 goals against average. He’s had a solid season, but nothing spectacular to warrant an extension with Dallas. They Stars also have 23-year old Jake Oettinger starting the majority of games for them and he looks capable of taking over the starting job long-term.

Therefore, Holtby is expendable.

Holtby was a free agent prior to the 2020-21’ season and was expected to be paid handsomely as one of the top goalies on the market following 10 good years in Washington. The Canucks decided to make him their guy with a two-year, $9.6 million deal.

His performance was so miserable last season, the Canucks bought him out after one year and sent him to free agency a year early.

Now at 32-years old, Holtby had to sign a one-year prove it deal with Dallas. That deal is paying him $2 million this season so he would come relatively cheap for any team that will acquire him. His salary is comparable with other good backups around the NHL.

In an ideal world, Tristan Jarry continues his dominant form into the playoffs. However, if an injury occurs or a change is needed, having a guy who has started 96 playoff games there to back him up might not be an awful idea.

Holtby has seven shutouts in those 96 postseason starts and carries a 2.13 goals against average to go along with a .926 save percentage. The Caps couldn’t beat the Penguins for a long time, but it certainly couldn’t all be pinned on him. Those are very good numbers when the games matter most.

With Dallas on the cusp of the playoffs, they may not be interested in trading Holtby. With Oettinger, they have a goaltender who isn’t privy to the pressure of playoff games quite yet. Holtby can be a mentor or even a safety blanket if they get down in a playoff series.

If the Penguins do attempt to trade for their former nemesis, what would it cost?

With a nice cheap contract and multiple teams in need of goaltending help, the price could be driven up by a bidding war. A solid prospect or a first/second round pick could eventually be the price. It’s more realistic to think second/third rounder but the Stars don’t have to trade him unless things go off the rails.

Holtby would be a nice addition to the Penguins’ roster. I certainly think it’s worth a call to Dallas but I don’t foresee it going much further than that.