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Grubauer 'really happy' to get one-way deal

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Grubauer 'really happy' to get one-way deal

When he bravely walked into the lion’s den of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders, goaltender Philipp Grubauer wasn’t thinking about the possibility of signing a one-way, two-year contract extension with the Capitals. But he knew the ramifications.

“I didn’t focus on getting a new contract,” Grubauer said Tuesday from his summer home in Rosenheim, Germany. “I wanted to finish the season strong and not worry about a second contract.

“I had to play good down in Hershey and step up in Washington in the playoffs and the one regular season game I got, and show them I can be ready for the NHL and will be ready for the NHL. To get that one-way contract, I’m really happy.”

By signing a two-year deal worth $1.5 million – Grubauer will make $650,000 next season and $850,000 in 2016-17 – the 23-year-old goaltender is likely to begin next season as Braden Holtby’s backup. His cap hit will be a friendly $750,000 and will likely result in Justin Peters spending the final year of his two-year, $1.9 million contract with the AHL Hershey Bears.

“That was the goal for me, to get a one-way contract,” Grubauer said, “and I’m really, really happy to be a part of the Capitals for another two years. I’ve been with the organization since I’ve been drafted [fourth round, 112th overall in 2010] and I think it’s one of the best organizations and I’m glad to stay here.”

Grubauer said the Capitals and his agent “negotiated for a little bit” over his desire to land a one-way contract, which pays him the same amount whether he plays in the NHL or AHL. He admitted that if he begins the 2015-16 season in Washington it will be an adjustment playing fewer games as a backup.

Last season, Grubauer played in 49 games with the Bears and went 27-17-2 with a 2.30 GAA and .921 save percentage. If he backs up Holtby, who tied a franchise record by playing in 73 games last season, Grubauer would likely be counted on to play in about 20 games.

“We will see what’s going to happen,” Grubauer said. “I’ve got to get ready for the season as if I would start in the NHL. That’s the goal, to be a starter in the NHL and it’s got to start with the backup job. You’ve got to start somewhere with the backup job. I want to take the next step. With the AHL, I learned and played down there and I want to take the next step to the NHL full-time.

“I played close to 50 games last year in Hershey and it’s going to be a little different next year, for sure, not playing as much. You have to just stay focused and work and soak everything in if I’m going to be up there full time. You can learn by watching as well. That’s what I did when I first came over to Canada for my first couple seasons.”

Even before he was taken by the Caps in the 2010 draft, Grubauer left his family at the age of 17 to play in the Ontario Hockey League. A 6-foot-1, 184-pounder, he played two full seasons in the OHL before beginning his pro career with the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League. He split the 2012-13 season between Reading [26 games], Hershey [28 games] and the Caps [2 games] and played well enough in Hershey the following season to get a 17-game call-up under Adam Oates in 2013-14, going 6-5-5.

“The more and more you play the more you grow as a player and I think that was the case for me,” he said. “Two years ago when I played those 17 games [for the Capitals] I was fortunate to play those and I got sent down and I developed my game. You grow. It’s really important when you’re not in the NHL to make sure you’re ready. You saw in the playoffs that every second and every detail matters and you can make the difference in the game.”

Grubauer was introduced to the coaching methods of Capitals goaltending coach Mitch Korn last summer, but spent most of last season working with Scott Murray, the Bears’ goalie instructor. Grubauer said he focused on playing the puck better, making himself look bigger between the pipes, and tracking the puck through traffic. He said it would be “amazing” to work with Korn for a full season.

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“You learn so much,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to practice with him much, but he stayed in contact with Scotty and those two guys have the same philosophy. I’m really looking forward to working with Mitch again.”

If all goes as expected and Grubauer nails down the job as Holtby’s backup next season, he said he thinks Pheonix Coppley is ready to replace him as the starting goaltender in Hershey. Signed as a free agent out of Michigan Tech, Copley, also 23, served as Grubauer’s backup this season, going 17-4-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .925 save percentage.

“He works incredibly hard,” Grubauer said. “He’s a taller guy [6-foot-3, 190 pounds] and really a nice guy and he had an amazing season last year and I’m sure he’s ready to take the No. 1 spot. I think he only lost one game in 2015. He’s an amazing guy and works really hard, so he deserves it all.”

Grubauer said he plans on remaining in Germany this summer and returning to Washington in early September. If there is anything he has learned during his pro career, he said it is not to be surprised by anything – like getting a surprise start against the Anaheim Ducks, a 3-2 shootout win on Feb. 15, or stepping in for an ailing Holtby in Game 2 of the playoffs with the Caps trailing the series 1-0.

“When you get called up you need to win those games, especially the second game against the Islanders,” he said. “If [the Caps] go down 2-0 and then go into their building with them leading 2-0 … You always have to be ready. I was surprised in he playoffs when I started that game, so don’t be surprised, I guess.”

  

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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

The Capitals tendered qualifying offers to six of their seven restricted free agents at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, including forward Andre Burakovsky. 

Burakovsky, 24, had been the subject of trade rumors up until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 and also in the days leading up to last week’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Nothing came of them. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that while teams were calling, he wasn’t about to just give away a 2013 first-round draft pick. 

“We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player,” MacLellan said last Thursday. “We'd like to keep him around but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

But the Capitals are still in a salary cap crunch and that could still land Burakovsky elsewhere in the coming days. His qualifying offer is $3.25 million. Washington is only $9.235 million below the salary cap of $81.5 million. If Burakovsky signs, he would provide scoring depth. He has a career-high 17 goals and has scored 12 each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals do need to see more from Burakovsky. He has struggled with confidence and consistent production over the years. But if he returns, he would be a good option to replace the expected-to-depart Brett Connolly at right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and likely out of Washington’s price range. 

By tendering a qualifying offer, the Capitals ensure that they will keep Burakovsky’s rights. If they had not then he’d be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team. That’s not a smart use of an asset that could still help in 2019-20. They could, of course, still trade him at any time. 

Meanwhile, forward Dmitry Jaskin was not tendered a qualifying offer. He is a free agent now. Jaskin never gained the trust of the coaching staff last season. He appeared in just 37 games despite analytics that showed he had a positive impact on the fourth line. Jaskin picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Blues in October, had two goals and four assists. He did not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Winger Jakub Vrana also received a qualifying offer, but that’s not expected to matter much as the two sides try to put together a long-term contract extension after his breakthrough 24-goal season in his second NHL year. 

The Capitals did tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Christian Djoos. An ugly thigh injury that turned into compartment syndrome and limited him to 45 games. But with Brooks Orpik retiring on Tuesday, Washington could go with Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler as their No. 6/7 defensemen on their natural left sides. 

Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson also received his qualifying offer. AHL Hershey forward Colby Williams and goalie Vitek Vanacek also received qualifying offers from Washington.  

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