While players across the continent are preparing for a 2012-13 NHL season that they hope starts sooner rather than later, some, like Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth, are considering backup plans in the event of a work stoppage.
Neuvirth wants to contend for the top spot on the Capitals’ depth chart, but if a lockout occurs he may opt to play in Europe.
“Obviously, I have a plan B,” Neuvirth said after an on-ice workout at KCI on Thursday. “I got a few offers from Europe but I haven’t decided. I still want to play here the whole season.”
Neuvirth, 24, would not specify what teams or leagues he received offers from but did say they were not exclusively from squads in his native Czech Republic. For now, though, Neuvirth – like the rest of the hockey world — is waiting to see how the labor talks progress.
Negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA are ongoing, with the union expected to present a counterproposal by the end of the week, but the two sides still disagree over various economic and revenue issues. The NHL has said it will lock out the players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by 11:59 p.m. Sept. 15, when the previous one expires.
“It’s a tough situation and we all don’t know what to do,” Neuvirth said. “We’ve got to wait, and like I said to the teams I’ve talked to, I’m going to wait to the 15th then I’m going to decide what I’m going to do.”
Further complicating matters for players looking for other places to play in case of a lockout is that at this stage, there’s no indication of how long it could last.
Not all European leagues are willing to offer short-term contracts that would allow players to return when the NHL’s season opens. For example, the Swedish Elite League has already stated that it won’t permit temporary contracts.
On the flip side, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin has reportedly agreed to a deal with his hometown KHL club, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, that would permit him to leave whenever the NHL resumes. There have also been reports that KHL teams would be interested in a similar type of deal for Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.
“It’s crazy. I don’t even know,” Neuvirth said. “I don’t even know how the offer’s going to look like. I talked to my agent, and obviously he’s trying to get me the best deal he can. I still believe I’m not going to need to go to Europe and I will stay here.”
Neuvirth’s view isn’t entirely optimistic, however.
“A few guys from Czech I talk to, they already told me they’re not even planning to come over,” Neuvirth said. “Theyre already staying back home preparing in the Czech league, so from this side, it’s not looking very good.”