Grubauer and the Capitals Avoid Arbitration, Agree to 1-Year Deal
The Washington Capitals have avoided arbitration with goaltender Philipp Grubauer, signing the restricted free agent to a one-year, $1.5 million dollar contract for the 2017-18 season. The 25-year old Grubauer earned $850,000 in 2016-17.
Grubauer provided the Capitals with a strong season as backup to Braden Holtby, posting a 13-6-2 record including 3 shutouts, and an overall .926 save percentage in 24 appearances.
Grubauer was long rumored to be a target of the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, but was not selected. The Capitals’ well-known salary cap issues made him the target of significant trade speculation as well, but Washington was unable to find a suitable partner.
For the Capitals, the move solidifies their depth behind Holtby. Pheonix Copley is signed to a two-year deal, the first year of which includes a two-way clause. While the Capitals willingness to move Grubauer showed that they believe Copley is ready to step in to an NHL role, he has yet to see extended NHL duty. Grubauer, on the other hand, represents a safer insurance policy against an early season injury to the Capitals’ Vezina finalist. If Copley proves capable of taking the backup role behind Holtby, Grubauer remains a valuable trade deadline asset should any team lose a starter to injury.
The deal represents a compromise with mutual benefits. Washington, having traded Marcus Johansen to the Devils to alleviate some of their cap difficulties, keeps a talented goalie on the roster at a reasonable price and avoids the potential of a higher arbitration award. Grubauer avoids the possibility that a lower arbitration award would have been locked in by the Capitals for the 2018-19 season.
Grubauer will still have one more year of restricted free agency at the conclusion of this contract. If his strong play continues, he’ll either be due a raise from the Capitals, or able to negotiate more money and term from a new team if he’s moved.
By agreeing to the one-year term, both sides appear to have maintained as much flexibility as possible after several months of uncertainty. There are myriad questions that will surround the Capitals until next spring, but with Holtby, Grubauer, and Copley under contract for next season, goaltending looks to be the least of Washington’s concerns.