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With Copley re-signed, does that mean the Caps are ready to part with Grubauer?

With Copley re-signed, does that mean the Caps are ready to part with Grubauer?

The Capitals are a team in need of a top-four defenseman after the departure of Nate Schmidt to Vegas. One option to address that need is a trade, a trade that may have gotten that much easier for Washington to make with the re-signing of goalie Pheonix Copley on Wednesday.

Philipp Grubauer, the current backup to Braden Holtby, appears to be the team’s biggest trade asset. Holtby is a Vezina caliber goalie signed through the 2019-20 season. The team also boasts one of the top goalie prospects in the world in Ilya Samsonov who is expected to be Washington’s future starter. That means Grubauer, who looks ready to start now, is expendable.

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Or at least, he would be if the team had another viable option at backup.

The Pittsburgh Penguins showed how important having a dependable backup can be as they had to call upon Marc-Andre Fleury for 15 games in the playoffs when starter Matt Murray suffered an injury. For a Capitals team still hoping their championship window has not officially closed, they cannot go into next season without a plan for who their No. 2 may be.

Enter Copley, who signed a two-year contract extension with Washington on Wednesday.

The Capitals thought enough of Copley that after trading him to the St. Louis Blues in 2015 in the T.J. Oshie deal, they reacquired him this season in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade. He enjoyed a dominant stint in his return Hershey and is someone assistant general Ross Mahoney believes is ready to “take a shot” at filling the backup role behind Holtby.

But when will he get that opportunity? Grubauer, a current restricted free agent, will likely either return on a bridge contract or be traded. The problem for Washington is that the current market for goalies in the NHL is a buyers market. There are very few teams who actually need a goalie and there are plenty of options to fill that need. The Caps have a budding starter in Grubauer who they are not going to give away free so they may just bide their time until a trade partner emerges rather than rush a trade to address their need for a defenseman.

Copley's contract seems to account for that possibility as it is a two-way deal the first year and one-way the second, meaning in the second year of his contract he will be earning an NHL salary regardless of whether he is in the AHL or NHL.

Re-signing Copley does not mean a Grubauer trade is imminent, but it does answer the question of who the Caps could potentially replace him with behind Holtby if a trade does happen.

MORE CAPITALS: Nathan Walker is 'as close as anybody' to being NHL ready

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Craig Laughlin makes sure teammates won't forget game-winning goal

Craig Laughlin makes sure teammates won't forget game-winning goal

In front of a crowded Kettler Iceplex on Tuesday night, the Capitals Alumni Game was one that came down to the wire. 

With the game tied at seven apiece with 37 seconds left, it was CSN's own Craig Laughlin who stole the show.

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Laughlin buried the game-winning goal to give the Red Team the victory.

After the game, Laughlin explained that what he truly missed the most from his playing days was the locker room atmosphere. Tuesday's locker room was one he won't soon forget.

"In my whole career, I don't remember a lot of the games," Laughlin said. "But I will forever remember the locker room tonight."

Laughlin finished the game with two goals, but it was the game-winner that was truly special. 

"Well I'm never going to forget that," Laughlin said of his game-winner. "I'm going to make sure nobody forgets that."

By "nobody," does he mean Alan May? 

RELATED: CAPS RESIGN THEIR NO. 3 GOALIE

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Caps re-sign Pheonix Copley as their No. 3 goalie

Caps re-sign Pheonix Copley as their No. 3 goalie

The Capitals have re-signed goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley to a two-year contract extension, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Copley, third on Washington’s depth chart behind Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, agreed to a deal that is two-way in 2017-18 ($650,000 in NHL, $200,000 in AHL) and one-way in 2018-19 ($650,000).

Reacquired by the Caps in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal at the trade deadline, Copley was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

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In 16 regular season games with the Bears last season, the 25-year-old posted an 11-5-0 record with a .931 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average. In the AHL playoffs, Copley went 5-4 with a .933 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average. He suffered a groin injury during Hershey's playoff run, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

This is Copley’s second stint in the Washington organization. Originally signed as a free agent in 2014, Copley was dealt to St. Louis in the deal that brought T.J. Oshie to D.C.

The Caps were extremely pleased to welcome Copley back into the fold in March for a couple of reasons: They wanted better goaltending in Hershey and they needed a backup plan in case Grubauer got plucked by Vegas in the expansion draft earlier this month. Grubauer, of course, did not get taken and remains a restricted free agent.  

Speaking prior to the expansion draft, Caps GM Brian MacLellan confirmed the organization's intrigue with Copley's potential.

“We were really, really happy when we got him originally into Hershey and he played very well there, and then we were happy again to get him back,” MacLellan said. “I think he definitely has the upside here to be able to take a shot at filling [the backup role in Washington] if Philipp does leave and moves on. We think we've got some quality goalies coming through the system right now.”

Assuming nothing unforeseen happens, Copley is expected to be the No. 1 goaltender in Hershey next season.

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