Neuvirth, who has appeared in just 13 games this season and would have become a restricted free agent this summer, will earn $2.4 million in 2013-14 and $2.6 million in 2014-15. The 25-year-old Czech earned $1.15 million this season in the final year of a two-year, $2.3 million deal.
“We talk about it and I don’t feel as a backup,” said Neuvirth, who is 4-5-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .910 save percentage this season. “I feel I’m better than that, and that’s why they offer me more money than the backups in the league.”
It’s also more money than the Capitals starter as well, making it a rather surprising raise for Neuvirth. Braden Holtby has emerged as the team’s bona fide No. 1 goaltender this season, starting 34 contests and going 22-12-1 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average. Holtby, 23, signed a two-year extension in late February worth $3.7 million.
Neuvirth and Holtby have worked in tandem since the 2009-10 season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, though, and both are comfortable with the relationship they’ve established. While both are competitive and want to serve as Washington’s starter, they’ve been able to push each other forward in their development.
“It’s a healthy relationship that way. I’ve always admired Michal’s play. I got to play behind him a lot in Hershey and I’ve watched his game a ton, he does some things that are better than anyone else in the world,” Holtby said. “He’s a pretty easy guy to work with, pretty laid-back. It’s good we’re both trying to improve our games as much as we can, we’re still both young and trying to get as much experience as we possibly can. It’s great to do it together.”
Neuvirth made his fifth start in the past 36 games in Washington’s 2-1 loss to the Senators on Thursday and was stellar, finishing with 39 saves.
Throughout the season Coach Adam Oates has complimented Neuvirth’s professionalism at the way he’s handled the lightest workload of his NHL career. There would have been more opportunities for Neuvirth to play this season but injury and illness popped up at the wrong time and caused him to miss three scheduled starts.
“When it’s not your night you still have to be a pro about it,” Oates said. “Of course you’re competitive and of course it’s a business. It’s great that you don’t begrudge the other guy because it’s not that guy, it’s you. At the end of the day it’s you. The fact that both guys support the [other] guy is great. You see that with [Vancouver’s Roberto] Luongo and [Cory] Schneider that’s great the way they treat each other. That’s the ultimate pro.”
With Neuvirth signed the Capitals have $58.6 million in salary committed to 20 players for the 2013-14 season, according to Capgeek. Defenseman Karl Alzner and forward Marcus Johansson will be restricted free agents this summer while Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 5. The salary cap next season will be set at $64.3 million.