The last time Braden Holtby suited up for a Canadian hockey club, it was for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL over ten years ago.
He was then drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2008, and has been an elite starter for them ever since 2013.
Now, the father of two is ready to move his family out west and closer to Lloydminster Saskatchewan, where he calls home, and ultimately, go to a place where he feels he has a good chance at once again hoisting the Stanley Cup. Holtby signed a two-year deal with an AAV of $4.3 million on Friday morning.
“I’ve never been through this before, there are a lot of things that factor in but the two things I was looking for were a place where there’s an extremely good chance of winning,” said Holtby. “It’s going to be a good fit for my family, being closer out west is something that was very intriguing for us, as our kids get older and such.”
After a bit of a down year in front of a weak defence group in Washington, Holtby will look to prove he can once again be a Vezina-calibre goaltender with the Vancouver Canucks under the guidance of goaltending coach Ian Clark, who Holtby says played a factor in his decision to come to Vancouver.
“I know how much a good relationship with and the talent of a goalie coach can go, so that was definitely a big part of it,” the 31-year-old netminder said. “I really wanted to come out to Vancouver and have a good chance at success.”
One of the first things Holtby did when he signed was ask for Thatcher Demko’s phone number, who he is likely going to be splitting duties with this upcoming season.
“The way this next season is going to be, and I think the next couple, it’s going to be a condensed schedule, it’s going to be a grind and I think you’re going to have to have two guys who are going to win games for you. I think in order to have success as a team and a chance at winning a championship, you need to have two goalies who are going to get you there. Everything I’ve heard speaks to how much talent he has and how good of a goaltender he is, and that’s exciting, you want to be able to push each other and to have success that way,” Holtby said of his new goaltending partner. “That’s really exciting for me, maybe put some young blood back in me too. It’s always fun to work with the young guys, they see things a different way and you can learn a lot from them.”
From a stylistic standpoint, Holtby should fit in nicely with the Canucks’ system, especially if they defend similarly to how they did in front of Demko against Vegas in the playoffs. In that series, they defended well against east-west movement, which is arguably where Holtby needs the most help in order to succeed.
Much like Holtby, general manager Jim Benning is very pleased that Holtby is now a member of the Canucks.
“With Holtby, we’re getting a great person,” said the Canucks’ GM Friday afternoon. “He’s a total team player and he’s looking forward to working with Ian, he worked with Mitch Korn in Washington before, and Mitch and Ian are close so he’s excited to come to Vancouver and join our organization. He’s excited about the young players on our team so we think it’s going to be a good fit.”
Holtby is three years removed from a Stanley Cup victory and is looking for a fresh start with what he believes to be a team headed in the right direction.