By Katie Carrera and Greg Schimmel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 23, 2010; D3
The Washington Capitals on Wednesday signed goaltender Michal Neuvirth to a two-year extension worth $2.3 million. The 22-year-old Czech will earn $1.15 million per year, beginning in 2011-12, under his new deal.
"When I found out I got the offer it meant a lot to me," Neuvirth said. "It took me about a month to get the deal done and I'm glad that's over. I can put that behind me and just focus on hockey now."
Neuvirth, who will earn $765,000 this year, was set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, when his entry-level contract runs out. He said that after weighing his options when he was presented with the extension about a month ago, he decided it was a good idea to ensure his future with the Capitals.
"I was thinking what to do for a bit," he said. "But me, my agent and my family decided it'd be nice to sign for another two years with Washington. There are great and high expectations here. Their goal is to win the Stanley Cup and that is my goal. I feel like I have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup here. That's why I took the deal."
Coach Bruce Boudreau said he expected the deal would boost Neuvirth's confidence as he takes over starting duties along with Semyon Varlamov.
"There's always pressure because he's young enough [that] he's going to want another contract," Boudreau said, "but if anything [the new deal] gives him the peace of mind of knowing the faith that we have in him, and he can focus on being a great goaltender like we know he is."Stevenson's still here
After practice Tuesday, the Capitals' coaching staff posted three lists of players on the wall.
The first group was the lineup for Wednesday's preseason game, the second group was the players who would be practicing but not playing, and the third group was the players who would be reassigned to the minor league Hershey Bears or back to juniors.
Defenseman Dustin Stevenson didn't expect to see his name in the second group, but was thrilled when he did.
"It was shocking for me," said Stevenson, who played Tier II junior hockey in northern Saskatchewan last year. "I guess I shouldn't say shocking, because that was my goal, but I was very excited and it gave me more confidence going forward."
The 6-foot-5, 207-pound 21-year-old is still just one of several defensemen fighting for a spot with Hershey, but the fact that 14 players were sent down and he wasn't came as a pleasant surprise.
"I think he's handled himself quite well," Boudreau said, "once he got over all the [awe] of where he was."
Stevenson, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's player of the year and playoff MVP last season, had committed to play college hockey at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York this year, but the Capitals lured him away with a three-year, entry-level contract in April.
Stevenson said the team hasn't talked to him about specific plans, beyond telling him he should work to stay here as long as he can.
He will likely continue his development either with Hershey or with the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL before long.
But for now, he's enjoying practicing with the Capitals.
"It's been quite a learning experience," Stevenson said. "I'm just trying to learn as much as possible and take as much from this camp as I can."