Michal Neuvirth wants to be the No. 1 goaltender for the Washington Capitals. He made that clear at the end of last season that he’d try to beat out playoff starter Braden Holtby.
He still wants to do that, but in the event of an NHL lockout, Neuvirth might take his talents to Europe.
“Obviously I have a plan B [if there’s a lockout],” Neuvirth said Thursday. “I got a few offers from Europe, but I haven’t decided. I still want to play here the whole season.”
Neuvirth said those offers did not just come from the Czech Extraliga but didn’t specify teams or leagues.
Given that the NHL labor situation is so uncertain, Neuvirth is in a holding pattern until the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement Sept. 15.
“It’s tough situation and we all don’t know what to do,” he said. “Just we got to wait, and I like I said to the teams I talked to, I’m going to wait until the 15th and then I’m going to decide what I’m going to do.”
In 2004-05, many players, including North Americans, fled to Europe to play at least some hockey to make a living. That was an entire season lost, though.
The Swedish Elite League, considered the second-best league in Europe behind Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, has made it clear it wants full-season commitments from players who sign there.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin reportedly has agreed to a deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL, which could allow him to leave whenever the NHL season starts.
Because no one knows when that will be, it might be a tougher decision for Neuvirth and others whether to go to Europe or stay here.
“It’s crazy. I don’t even know,” Neuvirth said. “I don’t even know how the offer’s going to look like. I talked to my agent, and obviously he’s trying to get me the best deal he can. I still believe I’m not going to need to go to Europe and I will stay here.”
In conversations with fellow Czech players, though, Neuvirth’s optimism appeared to waver a bit.
“A few guys from Czech I talked to, they already told me they’re not planning to come over,” he said. “They’re already staying back home; they’re preparing in the Czech league. So from this side it’s not looking very good.”