Colorado Avalanche will regret losing Philipp Grubauer

Colorado Avalanche, Philipp Grubauer (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Colorado Avalanche, Philipp Grubauer (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Joe Sakic will look back and wholeheartedly regret losing Philipp Grubauer. When the Colorado Avalanche lost Grubauer to the Seattle Kraken, I couldn’t back my distaste. I couldn’t believe what I had just read when the notification emerged on my iPhone’s home screen.

But let’s start this from the beginning. In 2018, the Avalanche acquired Grubauer and defenceman Brooks Orpik from the Washington Capitals in exchange for the 47 overall selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. That pick ended up being right-winger Kody Clark who currently plays for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. Not a bad trade if you ask me.

When this transaction was complete, I knew Colorado found a No.1 goaltender. Not in the superstar category by any means, but a hard-working net-minder that is always willing to lay it out on the line for his team. We’re not talking about someone who is recalcitrant or rebellious. Grubauer had come a long way since being drafted 112 overall by the Capitals in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Grubauer By The Numbers 

That was made apparent in his first season in Colorado. Grubauer went 18-9-5 in his first year with the Avalanche with a .917 save percentage. In his second season, he went 18-12-4 with a .916 save percentage. The 29-year-old, Rosenheim Germany native was most certainly not making very much progress. That was until this past season.

For the first time in his career, Grubauer recorded not only over 30 wins but also stood beside the best in the game as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. His 30-9-1 record was the second-best record in the league alongside Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 31-10-1. Grubauer also tied for a league-best seven shutouts with Semyon Varlamov. His 1.95 GAA was also second-best in the league.

It seemed that he had found his footing. He began to click with the Avalanche, who, need I remind you, tied with Vegas for the best record in all of the NHL this past season.

This Avalanche side that is predominantly offensive-minded didn’t have much to offer defensively. Cale Makar is an offensive juggernaut from the back end. Samuel Girard, Devon Toews, Ryan Graves, and eventually Bowen Byram are talented with him as well. But nobody is a shut-down defenceman per se. Not somebody that locks on to other offensive players and does everything they can to remove them out of the picture.

So when Grubauer left, don’t get me wrong, I understand why he needed to go. The Avalanche had to resign Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog and judging from their lucrative deals and with only $2.38 million left in cap space according to Cap Friendly, Grubauer doesn’t have a spot on the roster.

But ultimately, I don’t like it. I feel the Avalanche could have pulled a few strings to make this work but Sakic and company didn’t bother to try. When GM of the Seattle Kraken, Ron Francis saw Grubauer as a UFA, he didn’t hesitate to snatch him. Because he knows the value of having a No.1 goaltender in this league.

On top of all of this, I sure as heck don’t like his replacement and nor, do I like the trade that occurred to acquire him. After losing Grubauer the Avalanche acquired former Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper for defenseman Conor Timmins, a 2022 first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick in 2024. This, bear in mind, is all for a 31-year-old goaltender on the last year of his contract and whose recent history would suggest, he isn’t arguably even worthy of being a starter.

Kuemper Was Not The Alternative Option 

His 10-11-3 record this past year and 16-11-2 record the year before needs plenty of improvement. In Colorado those numbers might rise but not because of his play in between the pipes, but because of how good his team is outscoring their opponents. Nathan MacKinnon, Miko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog can ensure he is well taken care of. You can bet on that.

In the case of, we’ll wait and see what happens, I don’t think we truly have to wait to know the answer. It’s going to be a struggle for Kuemper as the Avalanche’s go-to guy. It could be a time to shine for backup Pavel Francouz.