Published On: Mon, Apr 23rd, 2018

Why the Flyers must look to acquire Grubauer this offseason

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The Philadelphia Flyers‘ Stanley Cup aspirations were once again extinguished by subpar goaltending, this time thanks to the netminding trio of Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek.

Goalie GP Record GAA SV%
Elliott 4 1-3 4.75 .856
Neuvirth 3 1-1 4.40 .847
Mrazek 1 0-0 3.87 .857

With the Flyers carrying a 4-2 lead midway through Game 6, Neuvirth allowed five unanswered goals en route to an 8-5 loss that sealed the opening-round series for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So what can the Flyers do to end their goaltending curse?

Moves to make

In order to upgrade, the crease rotation must be cleaned up.

Both Elliott ($2.75 million) and Neuvirth ($2.5 million) are signed through next season, while Mrazek is a restricted free agent. However, considering Mrazek’s steep qualifying offer – $4.15 million, according to CapFriendly – it’s likely the Flyers will walk away from the netminder they acquired in February.

That leaves Elliott and Neuvirth, and one of them would still need to be moved to make room for a new face. Considering their recent struggles and undesirable contracts, the Flyers may need to retain salary to facilitate a deal, but that shouldn’t be a hiccup for one of hockey’s most affluent clubs.

So, with a bit of cap space, who should they consider adding?

Look no further than Washington Capitals backup Philipp Grubauer, who performed well enough this season to unseat – at least temporarily – a former Vezina Trophy winner in starter Braden Holtby and convince bench boss Barry Trotz to start him in Washington’s playoff opener.

Grubauer stepped up in key games this season, and he owns a .923 save rate across a career-high 35 appearances, making him the latest second-stringer to be ready for full-time duty after Edmonton‘s Cam Talbot and Arizona‘s Antti Raanta.

And while Washington may not be keen on moving its steady backup, cap concerns give them little choice. Grubauer is a pending restricted free agent, and an extension – which would likely come with a decent raise – may not be possible given the team’s coming cap constraints.

Look for the Capitals to save dollars on their backup netminder and invest their resources elsewhere, like in contract extensions for restricted forward Tom Wilson and unrestricted blue-liner John Carlson – arguably the top right-shot defenseman who could be available in free agency.

In making a deal with the Flyers, the Capitals could bite on a familiar face in Neuvirth, who suited up in Washington from 2008-2014. That will be a better possibility if the Flyers retain dollars on Neuvirth’s deal and offer up another valuable asset.

Why not sign a free agent?

Why should the Flyers move assets for Grubauer when there are options in free agency? Quite simply, the names who could be available aren’t inspiring.

This year’s free-agent crop could be headlined by the likes of Kari Lehtonen, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier, and Carter Hutton – none of whom appear better than Philadelphia’s current netminders.

What about Carter Hart?

With Grubauer holding down the fort, there will be more help on the way in 19-year-old goaltending prospect Carter Hart, but he’s at least a year away from regular NHL duty.

Hart was a wall this season with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, winning 31 of his 41 games while posting a .947 save percentage and 1.60 GAA. The world juniors star will begin his pro season next year with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Why now?

Here’s another reason why the Flyers need an immediate change between the pipes: The rest of the team deserves it. Captain Claude Giroux had a bounce-back season, Jakub Voracek remains one of the NHL’s most underrated scorers, and center Sean Couturier has finally reached his potential. Meanwhile, the Flyers boast one of the league’s best young pairings on the blue line in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.

It’s a core that deserves a chance at success, but that won’t come without an upgrade in the crease.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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