On the Ice with Isaac: Should Neuvirth be the Flyers Top Goalie?
WASHINGTON — Within the first three months of Michal Neuvirth’s third contract, he’d had it.
A second-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2006, this was supposed to be his shot at a No. 1 job. He had competition in Braden Holtby and Phillipp Grubauer and he was losing the competition, sitting as a healthy scratch while the other two dressed.
His agent, Patrik Stefan, requested a trade and the Capitals moved him to Buffalo.
Holtby, this season’s odds on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, is doing just fine as he leads the NHL with 30 wins. Grubauer is still the backup in Washington.
(Flyers Radio broadcaster Steve Coates talks about the Flyers at the All-Star break)
Neuvirth, now on his fourth team, is reviving his career, too. He leads the NHL with a .933 save percentage at the All-Star break and is contributing more than some may have thought when he signed as a free agent in the offseason to be Steve Mason’s backup.
“Michal is probably the most naturally gifted goaltender I've ever played with,” Holtby said. “He makes it look so easy and the relaxed mentality that he has, so it was a pretty good relationship when he was here. He was a good teammate, obviously he was a part of a couple big wins in Hershey (in the American Hockey League) that we were a part of. It’s good to see him doing well.”
When Neuvirth signed a two-year, $3.25 million contract with the Flyers in the offseason, it opened some eyebrows around the league. Had Neuvirth, who wanted out of Washington to become a No. 1 elsewhere, resigned to being a back-up goalie?
“I don’t know,” Neuvirth said. “It’s tough to say right now.”
The cap hit of $1.625 million was a cut in pay for Neuvirth, who made $2.5 million per year on his last contract. From the onset of the season the Flyers vowed Mason would be the team’s starter. Neuvirth’s track record has always been that once he gets hot, he gets hurt.
Just this season he missed two games with a concussion and another one with a separate “upper-body injury.” In the past he’s had several of the “lower-body” variety, including groin strains, bruised feet and leg ailments.
“It’s always been a thing of his,” Holtby said, “just trying to stay healthy.”