In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken‘s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers will be doing a deep dive on each player. This installment of the series focuses on goaltender Philipp Grubauer, whom the Kraken signed in unrestricted free agency.
2020-21 Team: Colorado Avalanche
2020-21 Season: Grubauer had the best season of his career in 2020-21, blossoming into one of the league’s top goaltenders in his third year in Colorado. With backup goaltender Pavel Francouz injured for the entire season, Grubauer started 39 out of 56 games and put up a stellar record of 30-9-1, with a 1.95 goals-against average (GAA), a .922 save percentage (SV%), and 4.79 goals saved above expected (GSAx, per Evolving Hockey). He also tied for the league lead in shutouts, with seven. He led the Avalanche to their third Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history, garnering a Vézina Trophy nomination along the way (though Marc-André Fleury won the award). In the playoffs, Grubauer helped the Avalanche sweep the St. Louis Blues and win the first two games against the Vegas Golden Knights before they eventually bowed out of the second round in six games. Type of Acquisition: Grubauer was signed by the Kraken during free agency.
Grubauer’s Pre-Kraken Career
The Germany native began his career in his native country before moving to North America to play for the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls. Grubauer also played with the Windsor Spitfires, with whom he won a Memorial Cup, before being drafted in the fourth round, 112th overall, of the 2010 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals. He spent his final junior eligible season with the Kingston Frontenacs before turning professional.
For the next four seasons, Grubauer split time between the ECHL and the American Hockey League, receiving very limited NHL playing time in between. He finally broke through as an NHL backup in the 2015-16 season, starting 22 games and winning eight. He once again backed up Braden Holtby the next season, starting 24 games, before he truly broke out in 2017-18. Grubauer managed a career high fifteen wins, stealing the starter’s net in the process, and was named Washington’s starting goaltender ahead of the 2018 playoffs. However, he struggled in the first two games, and Holtby stepped in and regained his form en route to a Stanley Cup victory.
Shortly after the conclusion of the season, the Capitals traded Grubauer’s rights to the Avalanche, along with Brooks Orpik, in exchange for a second round pick. He immediately signed a three-year, $10 million contract.
After one season of splitting time with Semyon Varlamov, Grubauer took over the starter’s net for the 2019 playoffs and became the undisputed starting goaltender after Varlamov left to sign with the New York Islanders that summer. Grubauer spent the next two seasons playing stellar hockey for Colorado, entering the upper echelon of NHL goaltenders, before leaving in the summer of 2021 to sign a six-year, $35.4 million contract with the Kraken.
Grubauer’s Kraken Expectations
Grubauer immediately steps in as Seattle’s starting goaltender. Although the 29-year-old has shown the capability to take on a heavy workload, he will not be tasked with as much this season with expansion draft pick Chris Driedger providing a strong backup option. The two will likely form one of the best goaltending tandems in the league.
If Grubauer can build on his excellent 2020-21 campaign, Seattle could turn a lot of heads in their inaugural season. A bonafide Vézina candidate in net will be a huge factor in the Kraken’s playoff chances.
Was Grubauer a Good Signing?
There is some risk involved in Grubauer’s contract. Six years is a lot to commit to any goaltender, let alone a 29-year-old, especially considering the recent history of inconsistency at the position. However, as an expansion team, Seattle has plenty of cap space for general manager Ron Francis to use, and there are few better investments than an elite starting goaltender. Despite the uncertainty involved, the signing of Grubauer was a shrewd one by Francis. The Kraken are set up to be a legitimate threat in the Pacific Division.
Jake is a reliable source for the Seattle Kraken here at The Hockey Writers. Hailing from New York City, he is an avid fan of all things hockey and is always involved with the sport, whether that means writing, watching, or playing. An enthusiastic advocate for sports analytics, Jake will often weave them into his posts to support his ideas. More of his work can be found on his Substack page, and he is a contributor with @hky_tapetalk on Instagram. For any questions or inquiries, Jake can be contacted on his Twitter, @jakezrihen.