WATCH TARIK EL-BASHIR'S INTERVIEW WITH PHILIPP GRUBAUER IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE
Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.
In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.
Today’s player: No. 18 Philipp Grubauer.
Last season, Grubauer was arguably the most reliable backup goaltender in the NHL, posting a 13-6-2 record, a .926 save percentage and the third best quality start percentage—.684—in the league.
And, at 25 years-old, he appears to be ready for a bigger role.
That opportunity, however, likely won’t happen in Washington, not with top-3 starter Braden Holtby under contract through 2019-20. In addition to being very good, Holtby also shoulders a heavy workload. In fact, he’s made 201 starts the past three seasons—eight more than anyone else.
There was a time earlier this summer when Grubauer thought he might be selected by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft. He was not taken, of course, as Las Vegas GM George McPhee swiped defenseman Nate Schmidt instead.
Grubauer also entered the offseason as restricted free agent with arbitration rights. His camp did not elect arbitration because, according to a source, he did not want the Caps to opt for a two-year award. In the end, he signed a one-year, $1.5 million extension to stay in Washington.
So what now?
In the near term, Grubauer is doing and saying all the right things. He arrived in Arlington, Va., a bit earlier than usual this summer, eager to ramp up his preparations for training camp in mid-September.
“Just be patient, work really hard and be successful out there, be ready to go every time,” Grubauer told me after an informal practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
“I want to be ready to follow where I left off last year, keep improving and working hard, get better every day and we’ll see what will happen.”
What could happen is a trade involving Grubauer at some point this season. Such a move would give the German netminder a bigger role elsewhere and deliver to the Caps an asset that could assist in their efforts reload on the fly. If that were to happen, Washington could turn to Pheonix Copley, Hershey’s No. 1 goalie and a well-regarded prospect, to back up Holtby.
All of that, of course, is out of Grubauer’s control. So he’s got his focus exactly where it should be for now: stopping pucks and continuing to build his resume.
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