When the Capitals acquired Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline they were not only keeping an eye on the chances they had at bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time to DC, they were also keeping an eye on the Vegas Expansion Draft.
In addition to acquiring Shattenkirk, they also reacquired goaltender Pheonix Copley in case backup goaltender Phillipp Grubauer got selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. Copley, 25, got traded to the Blues as part of the trade that landed the Capitals T.J. Oshie on July 2, 2015.
The Golden Knights ended up taking defenseman Nate Schmidt from the Capitals, but that doesn’t mean Copley will not get an opportunity with the Capitals. He signed a two-year contract worth $1.3 million with the team on June 28 right before he was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, with the second year of that contract one-way.
Last season with the Blues’ affiliate, Chicago, he had gone 15-6-2 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average. After the Capitals reacquired him, he went 11-5-0 with a .931 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average with the Hershey Bears. So far this preseason, Copley has had respectable numbers saving 36 out of the 40 shots he’s faced with a .900 save percentage, including 21 saves out of 22 shots faced last Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens. His preseason goals-against average is 4.27 through the three games that he’s played in.
Despite the fact that he’s going to start the year with the Hershey Bears, he could get some time up with Washington if they do decide to trade Phillipp Grubauer. There may not be a trade market for Grubauer right now, but goalies do get hurt all of the time and the Capitals have a hole on their second pair right next to John Carlson.
The Caps will probably go into the year doing that, but they probably will not be comfortable with that when the playoffs come around. However if he plays really well in Hershey to start the year, then the Caps could try to trade Grubauer for a top-four defenseman sooner rather than later. They would have to do so by the trade deadline on February 26 if they are going to trade him.
Signed as a UFA on March 19, 2014, Copley has made quite the impression on the Capitals. He was so valuable to the Capitals that they reacquired him two years after they traded him and then signed him to a two-year contract.
Copley has played well with the Wolves and even better with the Bears and should get an opportunity with the Capitals sooner rather than later. His value could go up even higher at the end of the season into next season if the Capitals do decide to trade Grubauer. He has proved himself so far, but he will have to deliver at the NHL level to backup how important the Capitals think he is to the team.
By Harrison Brown