The Capitals have goalies Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth both under contract for the next two seasons. As we examined earlier this week, that position appears set at a relatively cheap price.
But Washington has always treated its goalies as depreciating assets. Semyon Varlamov was traded when he wanted too much money as a restricted agent and – bluff or not - used the KHL as a negotiating tactic.
But that deal was possible because the organization knew it had Neuvirth in place and Holtby had shown promise at AHL Hershey and in brief bursts with the Caps.
To keep that trend going, Washington has Philipp Grubauer again in goal at Hershey for this season. The team’s fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Grubauer started 26 games at ECHL Reading last season thanks to the NHL lockout and another 28 for the Bears once Holtby was back with the Caps.
But is Grubauer on the same level as Holtby or Neuvirth? His numbers were excellent in 69 ECHL games spread over two seasons with South Carolina in 2011-12 and Reading last season.
At age 21 Grubauer played 28 games at Hershey with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. What’s weird about those numbers? They are almost identical to what Holtby put up at age 21 at the same level (2.29, .920). Neuvirth in his age 21/22 season played 22 games in the AHL (2.24, .919) with eerily similar stats.
All are relatively small sample sizes, of course, and Holtby had already played 14 NHL games at that age while Neuvirth had appeared in 22. But what it means is that Grubauer has passed all the tests put before him. He’ll have AHL veteran David Leggio, 28, along side this season in Hershey to push him, but Grubauer should see more than the two NHL games he got last year.