Grubauer Signs Extension; Peters Done in Washington?
The Washington Capitals announced the re-signing of Philipp Grubauer to a two-year, one-way contract Monday.
The move likely signals the 23-year-old will back up Braden Holtby on the Capitals depth chart, giving them a young but promising NHL tandem.
Grubauer spent most of 2014-15 with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, playing one regular season game with the NHL club and another in the playoffs, when he won Game 2 of the First Round series against the New York Islanders in place of an ill Holtby.
In 49 games with Hershey this season, Grubauer posted a .921 save percentage, good for ninth in that league. Grubauer has a .919 for his AHL career and a .924 in 20 NHL games over the past three seasons.
This contract, then, must be seen as a vote of confidence in Grubauer for the future.
The Capitals also have Justin Peters under contract for next season and must still also come to terms with Braden Holtby this summer, something they have publicly committed to doing. It seems reasonable that the team foresees a Holtby-Grubauer tandem moving forward.
Grubauer and Peters are on one-way contracts, meaning that regardless off whether they are playing in the NHL or the AHL, they will make NHL wages. Grubauer’s $750,000 AAV is slightly more palatable than Peters’s $950,000, but neither are ideal for a team to commit to an AHL player.
Grubauer and Peters also require waivers to be sent to the AHL. It indicates that the team would be likely to try to trade one — probably Peters — rather than potentially lose them for no return at all.
The problem is Peters is coming off a tough season that saw his save percentage dip to from .919 for the Carolina Hurricanes last season to just .881 in just 12 appearances this season as the Capitals rode Holtby hard and even turned to Grubauer for one relief start in February ahead of Peters.
The other problem is the goaltending market is soft and getting softer.
There are several interesting options for teams looking for a goalie, either in trade or free agency. Among the names presumed to be available are Antti Niemi, Cam Talbot, Thomas Greiss, Robin Lehner, and either Eddie Läck or Jacob Markström. Teams known to be looking are the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars. Many teams with a need for goaltenders are, like the Capitals, filling those spots from within their systems.
The goaltender market, then, will remain a two-tiered system, with stability (and large paydays) going to a small portion of starters, while backups and younger players are shuffled around in the hopes of finding a perfect fit.
It is possible that we will begin to see more shorter-term, higher-dollar contracts in the coming seasons, a development that seems the best way to respond to the current market trends. Players get the money they want without teams getting locked into overlong contracts whose value declines precipitously over time. In addition, younger players can move up and into bigger roles more readily.
In any event, this coming offseason will be a very interesting one for goaltenders.