Every team in the NHL is going to lose a player on June 21 to Vegas in the NHL's expansion draft. ESPN seems to think that player will be Philipp Grubauer for the Caps.
In a mock draft conducted among four ESPN hockey analysts, each one selected Grubauer to Vegas.
The article does list one caveat, however.
In the real expansion draft, the Knights likely won't be taking the best possible players, but rather will optimize the entire process in terms of acquiring assets. In other words, they might agree not to take some of the players we've listed in exchange for a side deal that nets them a draft pick and/or prospect. Or [general manager George] McPhee might work a deal to take an exposed player with a bigger contract, provided he gets other assets in return.
Basically, while they believe Grubauer is the most likely candidate, the team can make a deal with McPhee for him to take a different player in exchange for other assets, such as prospects or draft picks.
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In Washington's case, that seems unlikely to happen if Grubauer is indeed McPhee's top target.
We don't know exactly who Washington will protect in the draft because they have some expiring contracts that makes it difficult to project. What we do know for sure is that, since each team is only allowed to protect one goalie, Grubauer will be exposed in order for the team to protect Braden Holtby. Regardless of who else the team exposes, a young, up-and-coming goalie like Grubauer will certainly be one of the Washington's biggest assets in the expansion draft.
Having a dependable backup is important and the Caps would certainly hate to lose him. So why wouldn't they work out a deal to protect him?
With Holtby locked in as the team's starter for years to come and Ilya Samsonov considered to be one of the top goalie prospects in the world, Grubauer does not likely factor into Washington's long-term plans. Given that every team is going to lose someone to the expansion draft, losing a backup goalie would not be the worst thing in the world.
As good as he has played this season (2.10 GAA, .925 save percentage), is it worth giving up other assets to keep him just to lose somebody else? Let's not forget, the Caps do not draft until the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Their prospect pool also is not particularly deep. There's just not much there for the Caps to offer Vegas even if the wanted to
Ultimately, it may not be worth going through that for a goalie they are going to lose in the next few years anyway to make room for Samsonov.
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