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Pheonix Copley re-signs with Washington; new Capitals backup?

The Washington Capitals announced Wednesday they have signed 25-year old goaltender Pheonix Copley to a two-year contract worth $650,000 a season in the NHL.

Copley could have tested the open market as a group 6 unrestricted free agent on July 1. The first year of his new contract is a two-way worth $200,000 in the AHL, while the second year guarantees Copley the NHL-level salary.

Copley was re-acquired by the Caps from the St Louis Blues in the trade that brought Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington at the 2016-17 trade deadline. Originally signed by Washington as a college free agent after two seasons at Michigan Tech, Copley was traded to St. Louis along with Troy Brouwer when the Capitals acquired forward T.J. Oshie in July 2015.

Copley’s likely assignment depends heavily on the status of Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer, who earned only $750,000 this season, will be a restricted free agent on July 1 and is eligible for player-elected arbitration on July 5. He was long assumed to be an expansion target for the Vegas Golden Knights but was not selected, and has since been the subject of trade speculation given the Capitals’ salary cap concerns and the possibility he could at least triple his salary in arbitration after posting a .926 save percentage in 26 games last season and a .923 save percentage in 66 games over five seasons.

Should the Capitals decide to part ways with Grubauer, the organization might still consider an additional veteran backup for Braden Holtby, but even with only two career NHL appearances with St. Louis the belief is Washington thinks Copley can handle backup duties after posting a .924 save percentage this season in the AHL with both the Chicago Wolves and the Hershey Bears.

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