Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said on Wednesday that he might trade Philipp Grubauer this offseason so that the backup goaltender can get a shot at a starting job elsewhere.
“Not pressure,” MacLellan said, asked if he feels any urgency to deal Grubauer. “For Grubi, I think he wants to be a No. 1. It’s just a personal thing for Grubi. I would love to have Grubi back.”
“He wants to be the guy that is running the show for his own team, and I respect that.” — GM Brian MacLellan on goalie Philipp Grubauer, who is a pending restricted free agent. #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/CKpd3SxOY0— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) June 14, 2018
“We have two really good goaltenders,” MacLellan continued, making a reference to starter Braden Holtby. “I just think [Grubauer is] at the point where he wants his own team. He wants to be the guy that is running the show…and I respect that.”
Grubauer, 26, was at his best this season when his team needed him most. With Holtby scuffling at times during the regular season, Coach Barry Trotz asked more of Grubauer, who responded with a career year, amassing highs in games played (35), starts (28), wins (15) and equaling his personal best for shutouts (3).
In fact, Grubauer had the best stats of any goalie in the NHL from Thanksgiving until the end of the regular season, going 15-5-2 with a .937 save percentage and 1.93 goals against average to help the Caps earn a third straight Metro Division title.
Due to his strong finish to the season and Holtby’s uneven play, Grubauer was tapped as the Caps’ playoff starter. It didn’t last, though, as he gave way to Holtby after a couple of overtime losses to start the Columbus series.
Holtby did not give the net back. Instead, he rediscovered his game and led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup, meaning the starting job in Washington figures to belong to No. 70 for a long, long time going forward.
Which leaves Grubauer in a tough spot—again.
The Caps can, however, help out a player that did so much for them during an up-and-down regular season. They can trade the German to a team where he’ll have the chance to start full-time.
As things stand now, there are no shortage of clubs seeking upgrades in net. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the Islanders and Hurricanes have already inquired about Grubauer’s availability.
Asked if he feels that he’s proved to the rest of the league that he can be a No. 1, Grubauer said, “Hopefully, yeah.”
“I tried to play my game and I tried to be consistent the last couple of years, and win some games and get some points. Hopefully teams and other people saw that,” he added. “That was my goal: to be a No. 1 starter. I would like to be a No. 1 starter.”
Grubauer stopped short of saying he wanted to be dealt.
“I think we’re going to celebrate a little bit longer and enjoy this moment,” he said. “The draft is pretty soon. I think things are going to happen pretty soon. But who knows? I’m still a restricted free agent. …We’ll see. I’m sure something will happen.”
If the Caps were to trade Grubauer, the team would likely turn to prospect Pheonix Copley, the organization’s No. 3 goalie who skated with the ‘black aces’ during the Cup run, as the backup next season. Ilya Samsonov could also be in the mix; the 2015 first round pick is slated to come to North America this fall, though MacLellan conceded that he’ll likely need some AHL seasoning before competing for a job in Washington.
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