There have been no discussions for a new contract between Buffalo and pending UFA goalie Michal Neuvirth, player agent Patrick Stefan told PHT on Friday.
Neuvirth, 26, assumed the Sabres’ No. 1 gig following Jhonas Enroth’s trade to Dallas and has been the goalie of record ever since. Over that stretch, the Czech netminder — who’s in the last of a two-year, $5 million deal — has played very well, allowing just five goals on 103 shots (.951 save percentage) while earning high praise from onlookers:
Neuvirth’s numbers on the year remain unimpressive — 4-15-2, .310 GAA, .913 save percentage — though his playing opportunities were limited earlier in the year with Enroth in the fold.
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Sabres GM Tim Murray opts to begin negotiations, as the current state of Buffalo’s goaltending behind Neuvirth and Anders Lindback (another pending UFA) is murky. Matt Hackett, 24, and Nathan Lieuwen, 23, could still turn into NHL-caliber netminders, but they’re not there yet; the club’s three most recent draftees (Linus Ullmark, Cal Petersen, Jonas Johansson) don’t project to be ready anytime soon.
As for heading to free agency… Neuvirth would be one of the youngest and most intriguing UFAs on the market, and could probably garner more interest than, say, Antti Niemi or Viktor Fasth. Problem is, this projects to be a buyer’s market for goalies and there aren’t many starting opportunities available.
The Boston Bruins’ recent slide has created an opening for teams trailing in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but Philadelphia hasn’t been able to capitalize on that. Tonight was another example as the Flyers suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres.
Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth was superb as he stopped 36 of 38 Flyers shots. He also had a strong game against Philadelphia on Sunday, but in that case he wasn’t rewarded for his efforts as Buffalo suffered a 2-1 loss. Still, he’s kicked out 98 of 103 shots over a three-game stretch, which is good for a .951 save percentage.
“For a young goaltender trying to establish himself as a number one, the difference makers, that’s how you’ve got to be,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said, per the team’s Twitter feed.
This was a big night for Brian Gionta too as he found the back of the net early in the second period to earn his 500th career point in 821 games.
Brian Flynn netted the winner in the shootout.
Philadelphia has only won two of its last seven contests. It has earned four consolation points over those five losses, but the Flyers haven’t gained nearly as much ground as they could have over Boston’s recent five-game slump. Instead the Florida Panthers are in a better position to overtake Boston.
A couple of Olympic gold-medal winners will be between the pipes tonight in Montreal, where the Canadiens’ Carey Price will be staring down the Bell Centre ice at the Panthers’ Roberto Luongo.
Both Canadian netminders are enjoying excellent seasons. Price is a serious Hart Trophy candidate, while Luongo has helped keep Florida in the playoff race with a .920 save percentage in 46 appearances.
With a win, the Panthers would move to within one point of the Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the East.
So let’s hear those “Go Habs Go” chants, Boston sports fans!
Jaroslav Halak will look to rebound from a shaky performance versus the Rangers when the Islanders host the Predators, who are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.
Cam Talbot for the Rangers versus Ryan Miller for the Canucks.
Curtis McElhinney for the Blue Jackets versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.
Ondrej Pavelec will see his first action in a week when the Jets visit Washington to take on Braden Holtby and the Capitals.
Michal Neuvirth for the Sabres versus Ray Emery for the Flyers.
Antti Niemi for the Sharks versus Kari Lehtonen (likely) for the Stars.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford would like to add a bottom-six goal-scorer to Pittsburgh’s forward group.
“If it’s a guy who’s capable of scoring a goal or a big goal, I would like to get that guy because if [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] get shut down, we need to be able to win games with our third and fourth lines,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this morning.
“That’s what teams try to do to us. They try to shut those guys down. If they shut those guys down, and you don’t have enough balance on your third and fourth line where you can score periodically, then you can’t win.”
(See: the 2013 Eastern Conference Final versus Boston.)
The challenge for Rutherford is to find “that guy,” and to find him for a reasonable price.
Some have suggested the Penguins go out and get Jaromir Jagr. But according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, that’s “highly, highly unlikely.”
Chris Stewart is another candidate, we suppose. (Is he a good candidate? That’s debatable.)
Maybe Antoine Vermette? He’s not likely to come cheap though.
Suffice to say, the pickings are rather slim.
Remember also the salary-cap uncertainty that may end up defining the 2015 trade deadline, with GMs hesitant to add players with term on their contracts, and Rutherford has his work cut out.
Looks like Kevin Cheveldayoff might soon be back at the trade table.
Just one week after orchestrating the Evander Kane blockbuster, the Jets GM could be forced to make more moves after Wednesday’s news that forward Mathieu Perreault would likely be done for the remainder of the regular season with a “significant” lower-body injury, while Drew Stafford — who came over in the Kane deal — is day-to-day.
The Perreault loss is big. He sits third on the team in goals, with 18, gets time on the first-unit power play and averages 16:38 TOI per game. The 27-year-old also seemed on his way to surpassing his career high in points — 43, set last year in Anaheim — and provided center depth for a Jets team that’s not overly strong down the middle, and now boasts Brian Little and 21-year-old Mark Scheifele as its top-two centers.
Stafford, meanwhile, got derailed before ever really getting started.
The longtime Sabre was hurt in just his third game as a Jet, and his loss is significant as well. Between Stafford, Perreault and Kane, the Jets have lost depth and goalscoring ability at forward and will now be forced to return Dustin Byfuglien to the wing, even though the All-Star defenseman has repeatedly expressed his desire to stick on the blueline.
(Byfuglien’s move to forward will coincide with the length of time Stafford is out, per multiple reports.)
In a related move, the Jets have called up Carl Klingberg from AHL St. John’s. The Swedish winger has 10 games of NHL experience under his belt, but has yet to make his season debut.