Capitals trade Orpik, Grubauer to Avalanche

Stephen Whyno
Associated Press
FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2018, file photo, Ottawa Senators left wing Max McCormick (89) misses a pass as he tries to score on Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Washington. The Capitals have traded Orpik and Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche for the 48th pick in the NHL draft. The teams announced the draft before the start of the draft Friday night, June 22. The trade clears salary-cap space for Washington, which is attempting to re-sign pending free agent defenseman John Carlson. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

DALLAS — The Washington Capitals traded veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche for the 47th pick in the NHL draft Friday, a move that clears salary-cap space for the Stanley Cup champions to re-sign key pending free agents.

Shedding Orpik’s $5.5 million salary in the final year of his contract and dealing Grubauer before he earned more as a restricted free agent gives them more than $20 million in cap space. It’s needed because defensemen John Carlson and Michal Kempny can become unrestricted free agents July 1 and playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly and top-line winger Tom Wilson will get raises as RFAs.

Carlson, who led all defenseman in scoring in the regular season and playoffs, is expected to cost $8 million-plus a season on a long-term deal. The Capitals would have struggled to fit that under the $79.5 million ceiling without a move like this.

“This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best. Brooks was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization.”

The 37-year-old Orpik was a respected alternate captain who got the Cup third after Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom when Washington won its first title in franchise history. The rugged defenseman played almost 20 minutes a game in four seasons with the Capitals and scored the winning goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against Vegas.

MacLellan said Grubauer had earned the opportunity to be a starting goaltender somewhere. The 26-year-old joins fellow Capitals draft pick Semyon Varlamov with the Avalanche where he’ll get the chance to start more games than he did behind Braden Holtby in Washington.

Grubauer started a career-high 35 games with the Capitals this past season, going 28-15-10 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He played well enough to be the Capitals’ starter at the beginning of the playoffs but was replaced by Holtby during Game 2 of the first round after allowing eight goals on 49 shots.

The German goaltender’s play down the stretch increased his trade value to the point MacLellan was hoping he could get a late first- or second-round pick for him.

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