Pheonix Copley

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Copley latest young, promising goalie to sign team-friendly deal

It’s been a subtle but important trend in the NHL over the last year — highly-rated, young backup goalies signing very team-friendly deals on clubs that are (or will be) up against the salary cap.

The latest came on Monday when Washington Capitals backup Pheonix Copley inked a new three-year pact with the club to the tune of $1.1 million annual average value.

He became another promising netminder that a team signed a ‘smart deal’ in recent months.

Here’s the list:

Copley has proved he is on the right track as a full-time NHL backup this season. His .903 save percentage in all situations isn’t pretty, sure. But consider his five-on-five is sitting at .921, a very respectable number on a team that leads the league in minor penalties taken this season and has taken a nosedive as of late.

DeSmith, by comparison, is a .925 and Saros is just behind and a .924 in 5v5 situations. All three are in the Top 30 among goalies in goals saved above average, too, with each of them on the positive side of that category.

All three are backups with good-to-great upside and are signed to deals that aren’t forcing the team to choose between them and another roster player.

Copley and Saros project to be future signings, with Saros is the heir to Pekka Rinne’s’ throne and Copley the competent backup behind Ilya Samsonov if the Capitals decide to move from Braden Holtby after next season, or an asset down the line if Holtby re-ups. DeSmith is an excellent insurance policy for the oft-injured Matt Murray in Pittsburgh, having already proved his worth in that role this season.

You can throw another guy like Minnesota Wild puck-stopper Alex Stalock into this mix, too, after he signed late last month.

It’s a trend that could catch on elsewhere, as well.

The Winnipeg Jets would likely love to sign Laurent Brossoit to similar terms, for example. He’s having a stellar season in Winnipeg after escaping from Edmonton.

Los Angeles has decisions to make with Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen, both who have shown promise this season filling in for Jonathan Quick.

And then there’s the not-so-distant aspect of this: they represent expansion draft protection, allowing these teams to expose the mandatory one goalie without having to expose the team’s No. 1 (Saros will be the exception here).

The risk with these deals is low. We’ve already seen high-risk this year, with the Oilers shelling out $13.5 million for Mikko Koskinen, who has similar numbers to Copley but is three years his senior. It’s the above contracts that make that Koskinen extension so perplexing.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Capitals sign goalie Pheonix Copley to $3.3M, 3-year deal

by Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — The Washington Capitals will soon have some decisions to make about their future at goaltender.

The Capitals signed backup Phoenix Copley to a $3.3 million, three-year extension Monday that keeps him under contract through the 2021-22 season at a salary-cap hit of $1.1 million. It’s a move that gives the defending Stanley Cup champions some stability in goal but raises questions about their plans.

Starter Braden Holtby is only signed through the end of next season, and Washington has top prospect Ilya Samsonov and 2014 second-round pick Vitek Vanecek in the system. With Copley in the fold, the decision is looming between committing long term to Holtby and turning the net over to Samsonov.

”It’ll work itself out, I think,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. ”We’ll see how Samsonov comes and what our situation is cap-wise and the signings we determine to make.”

Holtby won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 2016 and rebounded from a rough stretch last season to backstop Washington to the first title in franchise history. But he stands to get a significant raise from $6.1 million per year and will be 31 when his next contract begins.

Given that the Capitals have already committed big dollars and term to center Evgeny Kuznetsov, wingers Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie and defensemen John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov and also have center Nicklas Backstrom‘s contract up after next season, there is no guarantee the room is there for Holtby.

”It’s human nature to think about it,” Holtby said. ”But outside of maybes, you have no idea. It’s a long ways away. A goaltender’s life can change pretty quickly, so you’ve got to stay in the moment and just play.”

Samsonov was the 22nd pick in 2015 and considered one of the best goalie prospects in hockey. He got off to a rough start in his first season in North America with Hershey of the American Hockey League but the 21-year-old Russian has played much better since. With Vanecek also in the mix, it could pave the way for a trade before the Feb. 25 deadline.

”I like Vitek, too. Samsonov is coming,” MacLellan said. ”Holtby is Holtby. He’s an All-Star goalie. And Copley is finding his way as a good No. 2, so I think it’s important for us to have depth as an organization, protect yourself on injuries.”

Copley has exceeded expectations in his first season as a full-time NHL backup, going 10-5-3 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. The 27-year-old from North Pole, Alaska, came into the year with a 4.32 GAA and .829 save percentage in two games with the St. Louis Blues.

The Capitals turned to Copley almost by default after trading Philipp Grubauer to Colorado. Coach Todd Reirden said Copley has earned extra starts.

”There are four different occasions that I can tell you about that we could’ve used Braden in that situation and we chose to use Pheonix and he produced right after it,” Reirden said. ”That’s how you earn the coach’s trust and the players’ trust and the player battle for him hard because they know the effort he puts in every day in practice.”

Teammates saluted Copley before practice when Reirden told them about the extension, which came after he made adjustments with goaltending coach Scott Murray since training camp.

”A lot of it’s adjusting to the speed, and the little changes from league to league,” Copley said. ”My plan is just to continue to get better every day, continue working with Scottie and just make sure my game is growing continually.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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Trade: Caps acquire Oshie from Blues for Brouwer, Copley and draft pick

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The Washington Capitals continue to load up.

After signing Justin Williams on Wednesday, the Caps have acquired T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Troy Brouwer, goaltender Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round pick.

“T.J. is an outstanding skater with a tremendous skill set,” said Caps’ GM Brian MacLellan in a statement. “He is a powerful player and has consistent track record of production throughout his career in the NHL. We feel that he complements our core group nicely and can help us get to the next level in achieving our ultimate goal.

“We also want to thank Troy for his contributions to our organization on and off the ice and wish him well in St. Louis.”

Oshie has two years remaining on his five-year, $20.875 million deal, which carries a cap hit of $4.175 million. The 28-year-old had 19 goals and 55 points in 72 games last season.

With Oshie off the books, it gives Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong a little more room to work with in the on-going negotiations with restricted free agent forward Vladimir Tarasenko.

Brouwer, who has one year remaining on his three-year, $11 million deal, comes in at a cap hit of $3.6 million.

Copley went 17-4-3 in 26 appearances with the Hershey Bears in 2014-15 posting a 2.15 G.A.A. and a .925 save percentage. The 23-year-old was expected to challenge for the starter’s role in Hershey next season.

Related: Caps landing ‘affordable’ Williams a sign of the new free agency