DALLAS--Nearly 30 minutes before the start of the 2018 NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche announced it had made a trade with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals for one of the prized goaltenders that was available in the offseason.
Colorado acquired goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik from the Caps in exchange for the No. 47 overall pick in this draft. The Avs had two second-round picks this year after they received the Nashville Predators' (58th overall) in a three-team trade that also included the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5.
High draft picks are valuable, but it was a price that Avalanche executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic was willing to pay in order to bolster the team's depth at the goaltending position.
"We knew the asking price was high, and we had the cap room that we could give cap flexibility (to Washington) and for us to not give up more than we did," Sakic said. "Second-round picks, it's a good pick, so we still paid the price on it, but we felt it was important to get Grubauer."
Orpik's time with Colorado will be short-lived, according to Sakic. The team already has eight other D-men signed for next year and several more prospects coming up through the organization's system.
"I talked to him today, so we'll either see if there is a move (another trade) or we're going to buy him out," Sakic said of Orpik. "With our group, we have a young group, and we want to stay young and keep letting our kids grow."
Grubauer, 26, shared starting duties with fellow Washington netminder Braden Holtby last season, appearing in 35 games. He also started in the first two games of this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs before Holtby took over for the remainder of the postseason.
The Rosenheim, Germany, native posted a 15-10-3 regular-season record, 2.35 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and three shutouts--all career highs.
His play was key to helping the Capitals win the Metropolitan Division and eventually the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
"He's a winner, and that is always important," Sakic said. "He was in the dressing room and went through a grind. With a group, you don't win the Stanley Cup unless you are a part of a close team that believes and knows how to win in the playoffs. He had a huge part in getting them to the playoffs the last two years. Two really good years. I know as a backup role, but I think we all feel that he is ready to take the next step and become a No. 1. We're excited to have two No. 1s."
Grubauer will share the starting load with Semyon Varlamov, who posted a 24-16-6 mark in 51 games last year for the Avs after missing the second half of the previous campaign due to groin/hip surgery. Varlamov still missed 18 regular-season games in 2017-18 with injury or illness and all six playoff contests after hurting his knee on March 30.
It is believed that several other teams reached out to the Washington on a possible trade for the German goalie, but the Avalanche's deal won out in the end.
"Just look at what he's done the last two years. He's an incredible goalie," Sakic said. "He makes everything look easy. Always in good position, and now he is a winner. We just feel that he's coming into his prime right now. We were looking to try and get a little younger in that position, and he was just a guy that was on our list, we've been watching all year, to be honest with you."
The 2017-18 campaign also made it apparent to Sakic the importance of having goaltending depth in today's game. Having solid goalies is especially true when a young team in front of them is still developing and learning from mistakes.
"We have a young team, and we learned last year that you need two goalies. We actually needed a third during the year," Sakic said. "We wanted to make sure with our young group that we had two goalies that would make sure that we had great goaltending for 82 games.
"I don't know in today's game that you can have a goalie play 65-70 games. You want to give them rest."
Grubauer is coming off a one-year contract with the Capitals, but Sakic was confident that the impending restricted free agent will be locked up with a new deal in the very near future.
"I talked to him earlier, he seemed very excited," Sakic said. "We're going to have something worked out here and look forward to training camp when he gets here."