Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer’s body language during 2023 Kraken training camp was reminiscent of Philadelphia 76ers star point guard Alan Iverson’s famous rant back in 2002.
“We’re talkin’ about practice!”.
“Grooby’ didn’t appear very enthused. Since then he’s posted mediocre numbers and then got hurt. He’s presently in the midst of his 2nd annual Seattle injury break. Last year Martin Jones picked up the pieces in net; this year it’s Joey Daccord.
Grubauer has suffered eight separate incidents of lower body/groin injury since November of 2019, five of them of various lengths when still with the Colorado Avalanche.
Injuries happen. This isn’t to question his credibility.
What we are questioning is the contract. It’s now a potential anchor hanging around the Kraken’s neck.
When building a hockey club, one should start with the most important position on the ice. You’re nothing without goaltending, so when Seattle GM Ron Francis was building the expansion Kraken, he did what he had to do to secure who he thought would be a reliable goaltender. He paid what he felt was necessary to get the deal done.
The term in particular was questionable but obviously part of settling on a contract.
Grubauer had some pedigree, having helped backstop the Washington Capitals to a two-seed in the Eastern Conference in 2018. Before faltering in the first two playoff games and handing the reins back to Braden Holtby, who led the Capitals to their first ever Stanley Cup, Grooby was the key down the regular season stretch.
In 2020 with the Avalanche, Grubauer was yanked in Game-1 of the 2nd-round against the Dallas Stars and didn’t return.
In 2021, Grubauer’s performance spiralled downward as the Presidents Trophy winning Av’s were eliminated in six games in the second round by the Vegas Golden Knights.
His experience this past spring for the Kraken appeared to be just the opposite. Could one chalk it up to ‘responding to pressure’ or simply ‘having nothing to lose’. He played solidly through two rounds for Seattle.
An individual who’s been around the game as long as I have, or maybe even a little bit longer, suggested Grubauer “needs to be challenged” to hold his attention. Maybe until that challenge becomes too great.
Of active NHL goaltenders, Grubauer possesses the eighth highest cap hit in the NHL at $5.9-million per season. The 32-year-old has three years remaining on his deal after this one.
His current no-trade-clause becomes a modified no-trade-clause next season when he can submit a 10-team no-trade list to management should a deal develop.
Should that need develop and no takers are found, the always dicey buy-out route becomes an option.
Am I kicking him while he’s down? Nope, I’m questioning how the club gets out of an inevitable and semi-devastating pinch should this trend continue.
If Daccord continues to be the real deal — don’t kid yourselves, still a question mark with just 47 career NHL games of experience; I’ll spare you multiple previous examples — then problem solved. The 27-year-old from North Andover, Mass’ will work another season at an amazing discount, $1.2-million. That’s when Francis will start speaking with agent Jerry Buckley.
In the meantime, maybe Grubauer comes back and proves us wrong … for three-and-a-half more seasons.
Today, he’s on long-term-injured reserve.
— Shorthanded Kraken Lose 5-2 To Rangers; Middle Of Skid?