One way or the other, the Capitals are going to pay Justin Peters $950,000 and Philipp Grubauer $650,000 to play hockey for the next eight months. With both goaltenders signed to one-way contracts, the big question heading into the 2015-16 season is which one will back up Braden Holtby, and which one will be the starter in Hershey.
“Grubauer’s an unproven,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He’s done well at the American League level and played a couple good games up top.
“Justin had a tough year, where he didn’t get used as much because of the work load that Braden had. I think we’re probably a little insecure with both. Justin should bounce back and we’ll get to see what Grubauer can do in training camp.”
Grubauer, 23, played well enough last season (27-17-2 for the Bears, 2-0-0 for the Caps) to earn a two-year one-way contract that pays him $650,000 this season and $850,000 next season for a $750,000 cap hit.
Since both goalies would need to pass through waivers before an assignment to AHL Hershey, and since Grubauer likely would be claimed by another NHL team, Peters, who played in just 12 games for the Caps last season and went 3-6-1, finds himself in a tenuous situation.
“Like every year I’m trying to make the hockey team,” Peters, 29, said. “I’ve come to a lot of training camps over the years and every year you come in with the same mindset. If certain people have a slot where they think you are, you try to prove them wrong, just like any other year.”
A six-year veteran, last season was a trying one for Peters. He played in seven of the Caps’ first 23 games, but won just two of them and didn’t see the net again for 21 straight games. In fact, from Deb. 17 through the end of the regular season, Peters received just one start for the Capitals.
“Obviously, Holtby had an awesome year and it was fun to be a part of that and help him along and we had a lot of team success and that was a lot of fun to be a part of,” Peters said. “Obviously, I didn’t play as much as I wanted. I didn’t play as good as I wanted. But know I’m healthy, I’m fresh and I’m ready to move forward.”
Peters spent the first half of this summer trying to rehab a knee injury, but when it gave him trouble when he began practicing, he opted for arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 10. Peters said the late surgery put him “a little behind the 8-ball” with his training, but he’s excited to get into preseason action. His first could come Tuesday night in Boston and Capitals coach Barry Trotz says he’ll be watching closely.
“From a coach’s standpoint, all we have to ask is, Who’s the best goalie?” Trotz said. “We’ll probably have to rank them. It may depend on the salary cap. It may be a business decision.”
If Peters is the goalie sent to Hershey, his $950,000 will come off the books, giving the Caps roughly $1.2 million of cap space to sign free-agent center Derek Roy or take on another NHL player salary in a trade.
“We’re getting Holtby ready (for the regular season),” Trotz said. “He’ll get the majority of the minutes. But the minutes that are remaining, those two guys (Peters and Grubauer) will get the majority of those minutes (in the preseason).”