It Looks like Europe for now!!! twitter.com/mneuvirth30/st…— Michal Neuvirth (@mneuvirth30) September 14, 2012
Updated 2:45 p.m.: Michal Neuvirth tweeted the above picture last week, and on Monday the Capitals goaltender said he expects to have a deal done to play in the Czech Extraliga by Tuesday.
“I should have a team, if not today, by tomorrow,” said Neuvirth, who will return to the Czech Republic once a deal is completed.
Neuvirth’s agent, Patrik Stefan, said the goaltender plans to join his former team HC Sparta Praha. Neuvirth played in the HC Sparta Praha system from 2003-04 to 2005-06 before he came to North America.
“It’s a tough situation,” Neuvirth, 24, said. “For me, I just want to play. I think it’s going to be better to practice with a team, get some games. I would be happy if I could fly back in a couple weeks and get ready for the NHL season, but at this point I’m looking forward to playing in Czech. Hopefully we’ll all be back here soon.”
Since the lockout began at midnight Saturday, many European players have signed contracts to play elsewhere.
Those who are bound for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League include Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jiri Hudler and Nikolai Kulemin. Meantime, Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Hemsky, Jiri Tlusty, Ondrej Pavelec and Pavel Kubina are among those headed to the Czech Extraliga. Jussi Jokinen has signed with SM-Liiga in Finland, Marc Streit with the Swiss National League and others are bound to find new teams in the days to come as well.
While some may believe that players leaving for Europe signals a fractured union, teammates of those who are signing elsewhere disagree. At this stage, most of those signing deals are European players returning to their home countries. Neuvirth has only one-year, worth $1.15 million, remaining on his current NHL deal.
“For Europeans, for a guy like Michal, he doesn’t take up an import card, and he doesn’t have a long contract,” Capitals union representative Brooks Laich said. “For them it’s very easy to go back home. If I was in their position, I absolutely would go and be playing hockey as early as I could.”
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