Restricted free agent goaltender Philipp Grubauer did not file for player-elected arbitration before Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, signaling that he and the team likely are nearing an agreement.
Grubauer is one of two restricted free agents Washington has yet to re-sign, along with forward Liam O’Brien, who spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League. Because Grubauer has accrued enough NHL experience, according to the collective bargaining agreement’s chart for judging such matters, and is still unsigned, he could have exercised his rights to player-elected arbitration to mediate his next contract. The deadline for club-elected arbitration is July 6 at 5 p.m., but if both sides are nearing an agreement, it’s unlikely Washington would file for arbitration with Grubauer.
Arbitration hearings happen when third-party intervention is needed to settle a contract dispute between a team and a restricted free agent, and filing effectively sets a firm deadline for negotiations. According to CapFriendly.com, the Capitals have approximately $5.6 million in salary cap space to re-sign Grubauer and also account for five more player contracts to fill-out a 22-man roster with one extra forward and an extra defenseman.
Forward Travis Boyd also had arbitration rights, but the 23-year-old re-signed with the Capitals on Wednesday, agreeing to a one-year, two-way contract that will pay him $650,000 when he’s in the NHL and $115,000 when he’s in the American Hockey League. Boyd scored 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists) in 76 games with the Hershey Bears last season, but he has yet to make his NHL debut. He is expected contend for a depth role at forward in training camp.
The 25-year-old Grubauer was one of the league’s best backup goaltenders in 2016-17. In 25 appearances, Grubauer had a .926 save percentage and a 2.04 goals against average, and his last contract was a two-year deal that paid him $750,000 a season. With the Capitals preparing to potentially dress two rookie defensemen in the lineup next season, a strong goaltending tandem with Grubauer and Vezina Trophy-finalist Braden Holtby is a priority for the team.
“I think having two good goalies somewhat protects us from adding two young defensemen,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said. “There’s going to be some mistakes initially and we’ll rely on our goalies to get them through it.”