Photo credit: Greg Fiume
When the Washington Capitals traded away oft-injured but skilled goaltender Semyon Varlamov, General Manager George McPhee said the team was more than comfortable using two relatively inexperienced netminders in Michal Neuvirth, 23-years-old, and Braden Holtby, 21, for the 2011-12 season — after all, he had done so the previous year with Neuvirth and Varlamov in the crease. Less than 24 hours later, however, the tables turned when McPhee scooped up veteran Tomas Vokoun, one of the league’s elite goalies, for the bargain price of $1.5 million for one year.
“We were certainly willing to play our top young goaltenders, but I think people will agree this addition makes us deep again at the most important position in the game,” GMGM said at the time. “We love what we have in Holtby and we certainly love what we have in Neuvirth, but from an organizational standpoint, we’re all better off having this depth.”
Soon after the signing, Vokoun told reporters the Caps offered him no guarantees on the starting spot, but as a Vezina-caliber ‘keeper, Bruce Boudreau essentially gave him the nod over Neuvirth.
“If you’re looking at a guy that’s had the experience and done everything and been a number one goalie, you got to give Vokoun the respect that he’s coming in and he’s going to be the number one guy, and we’ll see where it goes from there,” the coach said.
So what does Neuvy think of all this? Well, that’s been largely an unknown — until now, that is. On Tuesday, he spoke with Czech Web site iSport.cz and said though Vokoun will no doubt take playing time away from him, he is excited that the veteran countryman could become a mentor.
“When I started to think about it, I realized that it’s actually really great,” Neuvirth told Frantisek Suchan of iSport.cz, as translated by RMNB’s Fedor Fedin. “He is a goalie I always looked up to.”
The Ústí nad Labem native — who signed a two-year, $2.3 million contract extension last September before completing a stellar first full season in the National Hockey League — said he was “happy” with his current deal. He added that he had “good feelings about the last season” was “looking forward to the next.”
While Neuvirth didn’t deny that he was somewhat disappointed Vokoun is being considered the number one, taking over his hard-earned starting role, he was adamant that his goal hasn’t changed.
“Yeah, that’s a pity,” he said to the Czech site. “But I don’t care who is number one and who is number two right now. It’s summer, the season has not even begun. These talks don’t harm me at all. I’m going to camp with the same position as every year. I want to play as many games as possible, whether at the expense of Tomas Vokoun or Varly. I just want to play.”
Translation by Fedor Fedin.