As trade talks pick up around the league approaching the 2013 NHL draft on June 30, General Manager George McPhee said he has no intentions of trading goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
“We’re not interested in trading him,” McPhee said during his pre-draft news conference Monday. “As we’ve often said it’s the most important position in the game and we’ve got two good ones there a couple of good kids down below in Hershey. We don’t want to weaken that position.”
The Capitals signed Neuvirth, 25, to a two-year, $5 million extension in late April at the conclusion of a regular season that saw the Czech native appear in only 13 games. It was something of a surprise, given that last season’s starter Braden Holtby received a two-year, $3.7 extension in February, but offered an indication of the organization’s continued confidence in Neuvirth.
Further down the depth chart the Capitals have Philipp Grubauer, who is expected to be the primary starter with the AHL’s Hershey bears next season, and Brandon Anderson.
McPhee has consistently balked at any assertion that the Capitals would need to part with either one of their NHL-level goaltenders, regardless of how their workload was split in 2012-13.
“Goalies get hurt, goalies can be off their game for a little bit and why not have as many good ones as you can?” McPhee said. “So let’s see how this year goes and we’ll go from there but they’re both good goalies and I think you need both of them. It’s hard to go with one for 60-70 games so we’ll see how that goes but we don’t anticipate doing anything there on the trade front.”
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, though, Neuvirth will start out next season as the Capitals backup. Holtby went 23-12-1 last season with a .920 save percentage and 2.58 GAA and started all seven playoff games, and has earned his place atop the depth chart in the eyes of Coach Adam Oates.
“He played the lion’s share down the stretch, he’s our No. 1 right now,” Oates said in a phone interview earlier this month. “Neuvy can easily become a No. 1 goalie in this league and he might get another chance but as of right now he’s got to earn it again.”
Oates likes to give players the opportunity to earn additional responsibilities and more prominent roles within the team, but he believes it’s important that players who asserted themselves in a position one year are given a chance to maintain that spot.
“Everybody’s going to get plenty of chances if they’re professional about it,” Oates said. “Neuvy had a couple chances to take the reigns, he didn’t necessarily play bad and then he got sick a couple times, which bad timing for him, but the show goes on. Holts stepped up, played a lot, got some wins and we kept going.”