Sakic: We have two No. 1 goalies; Kaut selected in first round
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Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said Friday night that he expects to sign goalie Philipp Grubauer within the next few days and will buy out the final year of defenseman Brooks Orpik’s contract if he can’t work out a trade for him.
The Avalanche acquired Grubauer and Orpik from Stanley Cup champion Washington for the first of their two second-round picks (No. 47) in the 2018 NHL draft earlier in the day before selecting Czech Republic right wing Martin Kaut with their first-round pick (No. 16) at American Airlines Arena in Dallas.
More on Kaut later in this blog.
As for the trade, which means goalie Jonathan Bernier’s time in Denver has ended after one season, Sakic said he was willing to accept Orpik in the transaction to sweeten it for the Capitals. Orpik, 37, has a year left on a five-year, $27.5 million contract with a salary cap hit of $5.5 million.
“We had a pretty good idea what other offers were (for Grubauer),” he said in a conference call with me and the Denver Post's Mike Chambers. “We gave up a second-round pick, it’s a good pick, but we felt to take (Orpik) and give (Washington) cap relief we wouldn’t have to pay as much of a premium.
“I talked to (Orpik) and the plan is to see if we can maybe move him or we’ll buy him out. We want to try and stay fairly young.”
Grubauer, 26, is a restricted free agent, and the Avalanche already are negotiating with his agent. He is coming off a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
“We’re certain we’re going to get something done, and it’ll be done shortly, at some point in the next few days,” Sakic said.
Grubauer went 15-10-3 in 35 regular-season games last season with three shutouts, a 2.35 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
Grubauer started the Capitals first two playoff games and didn’t do well, going 0-1 with a 4.57 goals-against average and .837 save percentage. He has a career playoff record of 1-1 in four games with a 4.24 goals-against average and .835 save percentage.
Braden Holtby played every playoff game the rest of the way.
Grubauer joins injury-prone goalie Semyon Varlamov, who is entering the final year of his contract, missed 18 games last season and all six playoff games, the latter with a knee injury.
“We really feel we need two really good goaltenders and we like where Grubauer is,” Sakic said. “He’s just coming into his prime. We feel with our young group that we have two goalies that can win hockey games for you and you can rest them at times.
“Obviously there’s competition, but for us the reason we did it is to make sure that we did have two goalies that regardless of what game it is, either goalie can win a hockey game for us.
“I think we have two No. 1 goalies, and that’s what we were looking to do,” Sakic said. “We wanted to try and improve our goalie depth. We feel by adding Grubauer and signing (Czech goalie) Pavel Francouz (to a one-year contract in May) to be our No. 3, we’re in good shape here going forward.”
Grubauer’s 15 wins were a career high. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound Grubauer has a 43-31-11 career record with six shutouts, a 2.29 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
A native of Rosenheim, Germany, his 43 wins rank third among German-born goalies, trailing Olaf Kolzig (303) and Thomas Greiss (98).
He was Washington’s fourth-round pick (No. 112) in the 2010 NHL draft.
Sakic said he had initial conversations with Bernier’s agent in February.
“We stayed in communication, but in the last couple weeks we started talking to Washington about Grubauer,” Sakic said. “We just felt this was something we really wanted to do, especially with his age. He’s 26 and just entering his prime, so we feel we’re in good shape now.”
Sakic said he expects to re-sign defenseman Patrik Nemeth, another restricted free agent.
“He’s coming back with us next year,” he said. “We had talks, we actually talked today. We don’t see an issue. At some point he’ll be signed.”
Kaut, 18, played last season with HC Dynamo Pardubice in the Czech Republic's top professional league.
The 6-foot-2, 176-pound Kaut, had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 38 games. He split the 2016-17 season with Pardubice and HC Dynamo's junior team, collecting an assist in 26 games with Dynamo and 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 22 games.
“We’re really excited about this player,” Sakic said. “He’s a powerful skater, he’s got a great shot. He’s a goal scorer and he knows where to go to the right areas. He plays hard all over the ice and like every young player he’ll keep getting stronger and quicker. We’re excited about his potential to be a top six winger who can score goals.”
Kaut, who is from Brno, Czech Republic, had seven points (two goals, five assists) in seven games at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo. He helped the Czechs win a gold medal at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2016 with four points (one goal, three assists) in five games.
Kaut is the first Czech forward to be drafted by the Avalanche since they selected Vaclav Nedorost with the 14th pick in 2000.
He was rated the fourth-best European skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, moving from 11th in the midterm rankings.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who had Kaut rated 16th, said Kaut underwent an ablation for a rapid heartbeat as a precautionary measure after being examined by a specialist in Prague and has been given full medical clearance. He didn’t do any physical testing at the NHL Combine.
“Everything checked out,” Sakic said. “No issues at all, no worries.”
Barring another trade, the Avalanche have one pick in each of the six rounds Saturday: Nos. 58, 78, 109, 140, 171 and 202.
Ottawa kept its No. 4 pick, so the Senators will transfer their 2019 first-round selection to the Avalanche to complete the Matt Duchene trade.