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What to make of Philipp Grubauer and the Avs goaltending situation

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Avs, Grubauer win Game 2

With the signing of Jonas Johansson on Tuesday, the Avs’ goaltending situation is, well, still as clear as mud.

To this point, the only concern among Avalanche faithful is likely what the status of Philipp Grubauer’s contract negotiations are. And as colleague and CHN frontman Adrian Dater reported today, there have been no talks opened up between Grubauer and general manager Joe Sakic.

Here’s where we’re at with the goaltending situation with the Avalanche, as it stands now. With Johansson putting pen to paper on Tuesday, the Avalanche now have five goaltenders signed

At the NHL level, it’s Pavel Francouz and, I guess, your only other option is Johansson at this point. It’s very unlikely this is the tandem Sakic, nor head coach Jared Bednar would prefer to go with for the 2021-22 season.

On the AHL side of things, it’s very likely the Avalanche want Justus Annunen in net, taking 60-65% of the games next season for the Colorado Eagles. Annunen is the new de facto heir apparent in the pipeline of Avalanche goaltending. Adam Werner’s days in the Avs system are over, it would seem.

Then throw in Hunter Miska and Trent Miner in the mix and the Avalanche are pretty set in goaltending depth, at least at the AHL and ECHL level.

Now let’s go back to Denver, where there’s a question mark looming over the “1A” still. Pavel Francouz can (hopefully) return to his post as the 1B on the Avs goaltending depth chart, which would push Johansson to be the veteran backup to Annunen in Loveland and Miska and Miner to head to Salt Lake City. For Miner, it’s more likely he returns to his WHL team to get more ice time.

But those sorts of minor-league questions all take a backseat to the uncertainty of the Avs starting goaltender situation.

Is Philipp Grubauer the man for the job? Of course he’s proven he can be. At least in the regular season. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist for the first time in his career, though he finished a distant third in voting, losing to Marc-Andre Fleury, who out-dueled Grubauer and the Avalanche in the second round of the playoffs

In that Vegas series, He had respective saves percentages of .857, .880 and .773 in the final three games of the series, which, of course, were all losses. Does this lower his impending contract valuation? Maybe a little, but likely not by all that much.

What we do know is that Philipp Grubauer will most definitely get a raise larger than the $3.3 million/year he’s coming off of. But how much of a raise?

My guess is he’s trying to get something close to Jordan Binnington money, which is a $6×6 AAV deal. Or at least that’s what Grubauer and his agent are hoping for. I doubt he gets that. Perhaps a $5×6 is more reasonable. I think he lands in the $5M-$6M range either way, regardless of the term-length.

Or, does he take a chance on himself and sign a one-year bridge? Or sign a more team-friendly cap hit deal? This now becomes the question.

Betting with the Barbers!

In a year where he’s a Vezina finalist—which could perhaps be the only time in his year he is—and it happens at the absolute perfect time, given he’s in a contract year and now has all the leverage against Sakic or any of the other 31 NHL GMs, does he go paper-chasing?

Or, given his appreciation for the franchise and his understanding that the Avs are just one or two pieces away and still very much in the championship window, does he take a team-friendly deal to stay in Denver for two-to-five more years and understand it’s his best shot at a Cup, at least of the teams that would be willing to pay him a largish contract?

Again, as AD reported, talks have not begun between Grubauer’s agency and Sakic. It’s likely they’ll wait until after the expansion draft and the NHL draft. It’s also extremely likely that Sakic is waiting on signing Cale Makar and Gabe Landeskog, and then see how much money is left for his starting goalie. 

There are a few things that could happen here. Seattle, which will see the other 30 team’s unprotected-players list beginning on July 17, could see Grubauer is available and unsigned and would then have a few days (between July 18 and the expansion draft) of exclusive negotiations with any unprotected and unsigned players. Maybe the Kraken offer him a sweet deal that the Avalanche can’t and won’t be able to match. It’s possible Grubauer’s camp is waiting on this.

This is unlikely, however, as there should be a number of solid, cheaper choices for Seattle to nab come July 21.

The Avs would then have from July 21-28 to attempt to re-sign their goaltender before he hits the open market. But Grubauer could hear some chatter about what other teams could offer him between now and July 28 when NHL free agency opens up.

It all comes down to Grubauer in any of these instances. Stick with what you know, and the team you have the best chance of winning with…or, hey, no one would blame the guy for chasing the money after having the best season of his career. Now’s his chance to do that. A lot of players would.

And, look, the Avs have options out there, too. There are a number of veteran UFA goalies who would take discounts to come play in Denver to try and win a Cup. Pekka Rinne? Freddie Andersen? Antti Raanta? Or, hell, go offer-sheet an Igor Shesterkin or Ilya Sorokin or Ilya Samsonov—we know Joe loves his Washington Capitals netminders!

If Philipp Grubauer wants to back the Brink’s truck up, let him walk. But given pretty much all 31 (and soon to be all 32 teams) are hamstrung by the cap space, methinks Grubauer will quickly realize there really isn’t money out there to get a long-term $6M-$7M million dollar deal. In a normal year, sure, maybe he could get that money. I mean, look at what some of these other clubs are paying their star netminders— $7M, $8M, $9M, $10M/year.

But these aren’t normal times, these days. For what it’s worth, I think Philipp Grubauer is back in an Avs uniform next year. I think the Avs offer him $5M/year for four or five years. But if he wants anymore than that, I’m just not sure the Avs have the cap space to pull it off and sign another vet or two when free agency opens up.

Either way, the ball’s in Grubauer’s court. He has all the leverage here.

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A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, Scott has so far spent the early parts of his young career covering Colorado hockey — from the Avalanche to the Colorado Eagles to the DU Pioneers. His work can be found across sites such as NHL.com, TheAHL.com and SB Nation, among others. Scott currently resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, where he works as a Marketing Executive when he's not writing.

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