The Washington Capitals decided to pass on the free agent goalie market this summer, opting to go with two young system goalies in Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov might be the more accomplished of the two goalies – at least from an NHL experience standpoint – but the Capitals decided to extend Neuvirth’s contract first.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that it is a two-year, $2.3 million extension that will begin during the 2011-12 season and net a $1.15 million annual cap hit.
Neuvirth (NOY-vihrt), 22, was 9-4-0 posting a 2.75 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 17 games with the Capitals last season. He went 7-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a.914 save percentage at Verizon Center last season.
The 6’1″, 203-pound native of Usi Labem, Czech Republic, was 17-3-1 with a shutout, a 2.24 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 22 regular-season games with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League (AHL). During the playoffs Neuvirth was 14-4 with a shutout, a 2.07 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in 18 Calder Cup playoff games en route to his second Calder Cup championship. Neuvirth is the first No. 1 goalie to win back-to-back Calder Cups since former Capital Pete Peeters did so with the Maine Mariners in 1978 and ’79.
Neuvirth, who wears No. 30 for Washington, made his NHL debut on Feb. 14, 2009, earning a win at Tampa Bay. He is 11-5-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 22 NHL career games, all with the Capitals. Neuvirth received the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the AHL’s playoff MVP in 2009 with a 16-6 record and a 1.92 goals-against average during the playoffs.
The Capitals are putting a lot of eggs in the Neuvirth-Varlamov basket going into this season, but if Neuvirth ends up being the better of the two this could be a nice bargain contract. The Czech goalie is only 22 years old right now, so you can use all of those buzz words like “potential” and “upside” when discussing Neuvirth. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how those two young netminders play this season and it sounds like they’re committed to at least one of them going forward.