It looks brilliant now ahead of a goaltender shuffle expected to occur during the next several weeks leading to the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft on June 21, the N.H.L. draft a few days later, and the beginning of free agency on July 1.
The Golden Knights, the Calgary Flames, the Philadelphia Flyers and perhaps even the Winnipeg Jets and the Colorado Avalanche are in the market, with the Pittsburgh Penguins veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, the Washington backup Philipp Grubauer and a handful of others in the mix to fill vacancies.
Fleury led the Penguins to the Eastern Conference finals, but with Matt Murray entrenched as the goalie of the future, he could still be traded — and his value has never been higher. Fleury wields power with his no-trade clause that could allow him to choose his destination.
Grubauer said he has no choice where he goes, but as a restricted free agent, he has some control and could be headed to Vegas. The Golden Knights will have 48 hours to negotiate with any unrestricted or restricted free agents left unprotected for the expansion draft, and Grubauer, a 25-year-old German, had a 2.05 goals against average and .926 save percentage in 24 games this season and is widely considered ready to be a starter.
“He’s an outstanding goalie,” Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. “What I think I’ve seen from him, the last year especially, his talent is N.H.L. talent, but a lot of guys have that. His mental game, his mental prep — every game he was in, he was never out of it, mentally.”
Grubauer and Darling could follow an established path of understudies who turned into starters, one blazed by the Edmonton Oilers’ Cam Talbot, who has thrived since backing up Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers; and the San Jose Sharks’ Martin Jones, who took them to the Stanley Cup final a year ago after being Jonathan Quick’s backup in Los…