Nick Wass/Associated Press
Goalie Philipp Grubauer has quietly had a spectacular season in his second season as backup to Braden Holtby. But having proved himself worthy of a starting job and with his contract due to end at the end of this season, and an Expansion Draft just months away, what does the future hold for the Caps’ young netminder?
After playing in just 22 games last season (he went 8-9-1), Grubauer has already played in 15 this season with 27 games left in the Capitals’ season. Despite his somewhat limited action, Grubauer has performed outstandingly, as he’s gone 10-3-2 with a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.98, a save percentage of .931 and three shutouts. His performance, along with that of Holtby, has given the Caps arguably, the NHL’s best goalie tandem.
A former fourth-round pick of the Caps (112th overall in 2010), Grubauer has played his entire career in the Capitals organization, working his way up to the NHL level through hard work and strong play. But with the Caps in a tough spot financially, the aforementioned Expansion Draft in a few months, and an expiring contract, what does the future hold for the Caps’ backup?
Unfortunately for the Caps, it’s almost certain that Grubauer leaves this offseason. Despite his restricted free agent status, his strong play has proven him worthy of a starter’s gig, and he will likely command a high raise from his current $850,000 salary. Hockey Reference’s Similarity Scores (which compares the career or season of a player to current and former players based on similar career shape and quality), Grubauer’s season compares to that of Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, who is currently making $4.75 million. If he asks for anything remotely close to that, it won’t be something the Caps would be willing to do, given their tight proximity to the salary cap ceiling.
No matter what lies in store for the 25-year netminder, the Caps are reaping the rewards of Grubauer’s best season of his career, and if his performance to date is any indication, it will only get better. Which makes potentially losing him all the more bittersweet.
By Michael Fleetwood