Captain Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will get their first chance to hoist the Stanley Cup in a critical Game 5 on Thursday night in Las Vegas. While the Vegas Golden Knights will do everything they can to push the game back in the nation's capital, the Capitals are focused on winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 43-season history.
And they might also be focused on something else... While their offseason has not started yet, the Capitals need to be thinking ahead and could be planning a major move while being one win away from hoisting the Cup. According to The Athletic's Craig Custance, one trade candidate has stood out for the Capitals and could be on his way out as soon as the Caps are named champions of the 2017-18 season.
In his latest column on The Athletic, Custance notes that Washington will have to work around their tight cap space in order to sign star defenseman and pending free agent John Carlson to a lengthy contract extension. One way to achieve that is trading talented backup goalie Philipp Grubauer in the summer.
“He’s getting moved for sure,” said one executive to Custance.
At the start of the postseason, the Caps were at the centre of a netminder controversy, when Grubauer was chosen to start in the first contest of the playoffs over Braden Holtby. Grubauer had been the better goaltender this season, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average in 35 games. Holtby, meanwhile, regressed significantly, as he registered just a .907 save percentage and a 2.99 GAA in 54 contests.
However, this was enough to push Holtby and the Caps have trusted him in the second and third rounds, all the way to the Cup final against the Golden Knights,
Custance also believes another Eastern Conference team will jump on the opportunity of landing Grubauer in a major trade:
"A likely destination would be the Islanders, who need to address their goaltending as part of their pitch to keep John Tavares. The Islanders have back-to-back first-round picks and could use one of them in a deal to land Grubauer, similar to the deal that Lou Lamoriello struck with Vancouver to bring Cory Schneider to New Jersey."
There are also the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks that could use a very talented backup to help them as both clubs faced devastating injuries in between the pipes throughout the season.
The Caps will be able to use prospect Ilya Samsonov as their next backup goalie, as he appears ready to assume these duties after signing his entry-level contract.