The Washington Capitals’ starting netminder at the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs might not be around for much longer.
According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, multiple teams have already called the Caps regarding the availability of Philipp Grubauer. Those teams are the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders (surprise, surprise).
Grubauer is set to become an restricted free agent on July 1st, and with John Carlson needing a new contract, there probably won’t be much money left to pay a quality backup netminder with starter potential. The 26-year-old is coming off a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, so there’s a very good chance that he’ll be getting a raise over the summer.
Despite losing the starting job just two games into the playoffs, Grubauer had a pretty solid campaign. When Braden Holtby faltered during the regular season, Washington’s backup netminder was there to carry the load for his team. He finished the year with a 15-10-3 record, a 2.35 goals-against-average and a .923 save percentage.
The Caps could’ve lost him during last year’s expansion draft, as they were only allowed to protect one goaltender (Holtby). Instead, the Golden Knights opted to take defenseman Nate Schmidt, which was probably the right call anyway.
Even if they were to move on from Grubauer, Washington has some pretty solid organizational depth between the pipes. They have veteran minor-leaguer Pheonix Copley signed for one more year at a respectable cap hit of $650,000 and they also inked 2015 first-rounder Ilya Samsonov to a three-year, entry-level contract back in May. They could also look to sign an inexpensive veteran goaltender once free agency begins on July 1st.
The move would also give Grubauer an opportunity to become a full-time starter at the NHL level for the first time in his career. Teams like the Islanders and ‘Canes have been searching for a number one goalie for years, so he’d get a fair shot to take over that role on those teams.