As goaltender Philipp Grubauer approaches free agency this offseason, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that the Colorado Avalanche and the goaltender have agreed to table contract talks until the end of the season. As the Avs make a run in the 2020-21 postseason, they are among the favorites for the Stanley Cup and the focus should be on winning. But, what happens after?
There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to the future of Grubauer in Colorado. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent who will certainly be of value on the open market after the season he’s had and being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. There’s the idea of sticking with a winning team, but one that doesn’t have a ton of money to spend. Finally, there’s how much Grubauer is willing to sacrifice to have his cake and eat it too.
As LeBrun points out, “There’s little question Grubauer will want his agent to do everything he can to keep him in Colorado. The German goaltender’s three-year, $10 million ($3.33 AAV) contract will expire this offseason.” He adds, “I mean, who would want to leave this team? The Avs could be entering a Chicago-like 2010-15 era here, taking swings at championships.”
LeBrun goes on to say that the agent wouldn’t elaborate on what “doing everything he can” meant. We won’t know that now until the Avs playoff run ends. But, LeBrun suggests, “I think it’s going to come down to how much less they can live with compared to what other teams — foaming at the mouth in search of a No. 1 goaltender — would be ready to pay July 28 on the first day of free agency.”
The Avs have other business to attend to, among the priorities are a new contract for pending UFA Gabriel Landeskog, a new deal for a franchise blueliner in Cale Maker, and a potential extension for recent acquisition Brandon Saad. Don’t forget, Nathan MacKinnon, whose current contract runs out after the 2022-23 season, will be getting a hefty raise above the $6.3-million salary he makes now.
In other words, there’s only so much the Avalanche can afford to pay out without making major sacrifices if Grubauer wants what Grubauer could likely get.
Grubauer Will Have Major Value
The goaltending market is always a bit unpredictable. That said, even in a flat cap salary NHL, there are reasons to assume Grubauer will get paid, and paid well. Jacob Markstrom and Braden Holtby did fine this past offseason, as did Jordan Binnington, Matt Murray and Robin Lehner not much earlier. Top-level starters in the NHL are a hot commodity and teams are willing to spend to secure someone solid between the pipes.
But, playing on a potential dynasty has its appeal. If there are other netminders in the NHL looking for a home, starters would be willing to take a discount to join Colorado.
Grubauer will have to decide what’s more important. Is he looking for the perfect fit and to stay on a team that means he’ll be a Stanley Cup contender over the next many years? Or, is he interesting in maxing out his value after an incredible season he may never repeat?
Grubauer had a dominant 2020-21 season, posting a 1.95 GAA along with a .922 SV% in 40 games.
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