What Should The Capitals Do With Philipp Grubauer?

The Washington Capitals are doing better this season than anyone thought they would with the amount of key players lost in the offseason. Currently sitting five points above any team in the competitive Metropolitan Division and third in the league in the points, the Capitals are proving even with important subtractions over the summer they are still a threat. 

But teams can always look to get better via trades and that brings us to Philipp Grubauer. He is by far the Capitals’ best trade chip should they ever look to do so. He’s a young, cheap, and a very good goalie. If a team needs a netminder of the future, then Grubauer is the man for the job.

The question is what do the Capitals actually need to get better? They have some great forwards that should be able to make a deadly Top 9. But for that to happen, they will need Andre Burakovsky and TJ Oshie to get back on their game. Let’s assume they do. That leaves just one more hole: the third defense-pairing.

The Capitals’ Top 4 looks extremely good with Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen and Christian Djoos and John Carlson leading the way. And though Madison Bowey looks like he’s improving every game, the third-pairing of Brooks Orpik and Bowey is a tire fire together (45.8 Corsi For%, 42.34xGoals For%). If the Capitals need to fix anything, it’s that. 

But the issue is Grubauer is worth much more than a potential rental third-pairing defenseman. It would be terrible asset management to trade him for some decent defenseman and probably something like a third-round pick.

And that’s the key here: draft picks.

The Capitals have been putting together some great teams the last three years, but they have done so by sacrificing important draft picks as most great teams do along the way. Over the last three years, the Capitals have traded away one first-round pick, five (!!!) second-round picks, and three third-round picks. That’s a lot of good picks missed out on.

The Capitals have been hitting good-to-great picks the last 10 years or so with their picks past the third-round (Braden Holtby, Grubauer, Djoos, Connor Hobbs, Shane Gerisch, etc.) but teams never want to rely too heavily on grabbing players late in the draft. The bread and butter of every team are their first and second-round picks. That’s where you’ll find the good players.

And that’s where Grubauer needs to be used: restocking the prospect pool by acquiring some good picks.

So what is Philipp worth? To answer that, I went as far back as the last 10 years to look at goalies who were traded for just picks (or picks with unimportant additions). I found six different examples. I’m sure there might be a few more, but this is the best I could find.

The players’ stats and ranks are based on the time frame they played with the team that traded them. For example, Robin Lehner played 86 games (3,682 minutes) with the Ottawa Senators before being traded. He had a .918 save percentage overall and a 5v5 save percentage of .919, which ranked him 40th in that time frame. His return was the 21st overall pick. The full trade was Lehner+Dsvid Legwand, but Legwand was such  a small piece he doesn’t really matter.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 6.53.10 PM

How does Grubauer compare to those goalies who were traded? As one can see, the German netminder is just as good or better than most of those goalies, at least when it comes to the numbers. The fact he’s second in 5v5 save percentage since he entered the league in 2012 is astounding. The only player better than him in that time frame is Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

There’s an argument that most, if not all of those goalies were starters or played as starters when the primary starting goalie was injured. Grubauer has only played the majority of his goals as the backup. That’s a valid point, but Grubauer has played 81 games, that’s more than enough for a good sample size. And even more so, a lot, if not most, of Grubauer’s games were played on the back-end of back-to-backs. So he was playing behind a tired Capitals team. And Caps fans know how much he has been hung out to dry. The most recent example was a game in which he pitched a 37-save shutout against the Rangers in regulation but lost in the shootout.

Trying to determine Grubauer’s specific worth is a bit difficult. It all depends on the market. Lehner, who is the worst goaltender on this list, brought back a great pick with the 21st overall pick. But Talbot, who is much better than Lehner, didn’t even bring back a first-round pick, but second, third, and seventh-round picks. There’s an argument to be made that Grubauer is worth a mid-first-round pick; he’s at least worth a late first-rounder.

But think about that positioning: mid-round (as high as 13) to late-round (as low as 29). Almost all of those positions are saved for playoff teams. Teams that just made the playoffs rarely need a goalie so desperately.

So for the Capitals, it’s all about finding that perfect partner that is 1) in desperate need for a goalie and 2) in a good position in the draft. The best teams are the ones that missed the playoffs but have two picks in the first-round of the draft. They would be much more willing to shed their later first-round pick. That’s exactly how Ottawa got the 21st overall pick from Buffalo. Buffalo had the second overall pick and the 21st overall pick (from a trade with the Islanders) so they were much more willing to move the 21st to help their goaltending situation.

For now, it’s best to keep Grubauer in case of a Holtby injury and deal him to a team at the draft that needs an answer in net. It’s a bit too early to say who would be good trade target but teams like the Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Arizona Coyotes could be good fits. They all have starters, but they are either old and don’t have much longer on their contracts (Mike Smith), are unrestricted free agents this summer (Cam Ward), or have younger options that haven’t worked out (Lehner, Antti Raanta, Scott Darling).

And if the Capitals can’t get a first-round pick in return, they need to get at least two second-rounders and a later pick too. Getting two second-rounders isn’t a bad thing considering this year’s draft is a good one. That would leave the Capitals with one firstst-round pick and three second-rounders. That’s a quick way to restock any prospect pool

It’s not a given that those pick/s will be available, but the point here is Grubauer is too good to be used to get a bottom-pairing or bottom-six player, or even worse, to be used on a rental. The Capitals desperately need draft picks to restock their cupboard and Philipp is the perfect candidate to get them that. So unless the Capitals can get a young player in return that can help for years to come, they really should be focused on getting draft picks in return for Grubauer should they decide to trade him.

By Luke Adomanis

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8 Responses to What Should The Capitals Do With Philipp Grubauer?

  1. Jon Sorensen says:

    If you are saying to trade him for picks, what does that mean for this season? 1) Caps don’t need any pieces to make a cup run, or 2) it’s not worth trying to make a trade for him, just to plug a need for the run this spring? I don’t think there is a clear answer. The picks idea seems to skim past this season, imho.


    • Anonymous says:

      The Caps don’t necessarily have to trade Grubi to acquire help at the deadline. Mike Green (the best UFA out there IMO) could be available for a 2nd and a 3rd based on recent years prices.

      Also, the Caps should defiently think more about the future than the present right now, because they’re at risk of blowing up Kuzy, Vrana and Orlov’s primes.


    • lukeadomanis says:

      They could definitely add something, just saying don’t use Grubauer to do that.


  2. Anonymous says:

    I still say and ELC D

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think Bowey is better than Dj


  4. hockeydruid says:

    IF he is to be traded you trade him after the season before the draft. I am so tired of the Caps trading young players and picks for rentals and then getting no where in the playoffs. Its like the GM is telling them yes you did good during the season but we cannot win without (insert name) and then they dont win with (insert name) but have lost depth players and picks. Does the GM ever think what it does to the players on the team when you are always trading for a player who is suppose to put them over the hump but never does? The players on the team have a great season and now you tell them this person is better than what we have and will get us the Cup and when it doesnt happen what have you done to the players mentally? Maybe instead of looking to trade for someone, this year do something really different……dont trade anyone but instead let this group sink or swim! Then before the draft make some moves As much as I like certain players maybe it is time to move them: Orpik due to age, Ovie due to salary, Oshie while he has value before he get hurt and cant play, Backstrom before he has no value and Holtby because you will get more for him than Gruby. You should be able to get lots of picks and young players of quality for those players.


    • lukeadomanis says:

      That’s what the article is proposing: trade him in the offseason for picks not now for a rental.

      And I agree, I don’t think Caps should make any trades unless it’s a really cheap person, tired of moving 1st, 2nd and 3rds. Go grab Franson for a 6th or something.

      I think they should trade Orpik and maybe Oshie, but not Ovi or Backy unless they request a trade or Caps get realy really bad but I don’t see that happening. I do think they should trade Holtby this summer or next. Love him but we have Samsonov coming. No reason to resign Holtby. So go get a Kings ransom for him before he hits UFA.


  5. Pingback: One Trade At The Trade Deadline: Proposing A Trade That Could Benefit the Capitals | NoVa Caps

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