The writing is on the wall – it is highly likely that Philipp Grubauer will not return to the Washington Capitals as a back-up goalie. Brian MacLellan said as much on Wednesday during the media interviews. Grubi wants, and deserves, a starting spot.
So what are the likely options being touted about? How about replacing Jaroslav Halak of the Islanders. Halak could be on the move which means this might be the best option available for Grubauer. The Isles seem dissatisfied with their backup goalies so we think they won’t be moving them into the starting spot anytime soon.
Loads of Competition
Grubauer isn’t the only goaltender looking for a great deal and the number one spot. There are other top goalies ready to deal with their home teams or a new team during Free Agency, which could open a door for a new starting goaltender including:
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars is ending a five year contract with a GAA of 2.56 and SV% .912. Dallas has a love/not love relationship with its goaltender. There was a time when he was one of the best, but then his performance declined. They could lock him into a nice contract but we aren’t sure he will be their choice as a starter. If Dallas decides they need a shining star in the net – that person could be Philipp Grubauer.
Carter Hutton, St. Louis Blues has had a respectable two years with a GAA of 2.09 and SV% of .931. He had a great season with the Blues, but does he want a Number 1 spot too?? Will the Blues invest in his future? It will take a pretty penny to keep him there. Possibly so. He could be the real competition for Grubauer should he decide to test the market.
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes has been with the Canes since 2010 with a 2.73 GAA and .906 SV%. No doubt the fans love Ward; however, it is quite possible that he has played his last season with the team. And what about Scott Darling? Could they trade him? Could Grubauer just move a little further south to become Number 1? There seems to be a potential here if Ward is done and they don’t get behind Darling.
Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche had a one-year contract with the Avs. His GAA is 2.85 and his SV% is .913. He filled in for an injured Varlomov, although he has had his fair share of injuries – including one that took him out of the playoffs. If he goes, could he end up in Carolina and steal that spot from Grubi?
We have heard the Calgary Flames thrown in the mix. Mike Smith is expected to return to the team as the starting goalie. We think they are looking more for a backup than a starting goalie. If Grubi is going to be a backup – we can’t see this team being where he would want to leave his mark. And what about the Blackhawks? What’s up with Crawford? Will we see them make a move to have a backup goalie ready to step into the number one spot? Would Grubi want to wait it out for this team that desperately wants to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. How about the Sabres? Will Linus Ullmark be their guy or do they want someone with a bit more experience to get them into the playoffs for a change?
What Will Grubi Do?
The question for Grubauer is: should he stay put if there is no real opportunity out there. The field is pretty tight for a goalie to move and this season, like last, may not be the best bet for him. The Capitals could offer him a bridge contract for two years while they wait for their goalies in training to become ready for the NHL. If they do, it won’t be a cheap contract. We aren’t sure they can afford him and sign new deals with John Carlson and Tom Wilson.
Could he take another backup spot somewhere else to wait out his time to move up? That is always a possible strategy. We know that unless there is some major injury to Braden Holbty (God forbid please), he will always be number 2 with the Capitals. The Caps have done all they can to help put him in the best negotiating position possible. But is there really any good place for him to land?
We think that given his outstanding performance the past two seasons, Grubauer can now write his own ticket. He can ask the price he wants, name the terms, and pick the team that suits him best. Wherever that team is–and some hope it isn’t in the Eastern Conference–we wish him much success. That is with the exception of when the Capitals say “hello.”