Frustrated with a lack of playing time, Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth recently said that he wants "to be a No. 1 goalie in this league, and if not here, maybe somewhere else."
Hia agent, Patrik Stefan, is searching for that opportunity elsewhere for his client.
"Let me just put it this way," Stefan said in a phone interview on Monday morning when asked if Neuvirth has formally requested a trade. "I want Michal out of Washington."
Neuvirth last dressed for an NHL game on Nov. 29, when he was scheduled to start against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center. As he took the ice for pregame warmups, he stepped on a puck and injured his Achilles, forcing him out of the game before it even began. The following day, the Capitals recalled Philipp Grubauer, who will make his eighth start in the team's past 11 games against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
Neuvirth has become a casualty of Grubauer's hot hand (5-1-2, 2.02 goals against average, .937 save percentage), having been squeezed out of the Capitals' goaltending rotation while they ride the rookie.
"Well obviously right now, they have three goalies up with the big club," Stefan said. "He's been sitting in the stands for the past week or so. ... I'm hoping and I'd like and want Michal out of there. It obviously doesn't seem like he's getting a chance to play and sitting in the stands doesn't do anything good for the club and obviously Michal. He still has the potential to be a No. 1 guy in the NHL."
Since being drafted by Washington in the second round (34th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft, Neuvirth has amassed a 57-38-12 record with a 2.67 goals against average and .910 save percentage. His most successful season to date came in 2010-11 when he made 45 starts in 48 appearances, winning 27 games and leading the Capitals into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Neuvirth, however, has only started 47 games in the past three seasons. On July 1, 2011, the 25-year-old seemingly grasped the No. 1 job after Washington traded Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche, but the team signed veteran Tomas Vokoun the following day.
When Vokoun, who started 46 games in 2011-12, went down with a severe groin injury, it opened the door for Neuvirth to regain the starting job, but an injury of his own -- a hip flexor injury suffered in the penultimate game of the season -- changed the course of the Capitals' crease. Braden Holtby emerged during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and has assumed the starting position ever since. Most recently, Neuvirth's "freak accident" as Stefan described it allowed Grubauer to usurp him on Washington's depth chart.
"He outplayed Varlamov and that was a reason why Varlamov was shipped out of Washington," Stefan said. "That was a strong season for Michal, and if I'm correct, over that summertime, they brought in Tomas Vokoun. Michal could have stepped in as a No. 1 guy, but didn't get a long-term shot to be the guy."
Stefan understands that the Capitals are trying to do what is best for the organization, but since those plans apparently do not involve Neuvirth, he wants what is best for his client.
"Michal's been there for six years," Stefan said. "I think he has the potential to be a starter in the NHL. It's not looking like it's going to be in Washington, so I want to get him a fresh start somewhere else."
Neuvirth, who has one year remaining on a two-year, $5 million contract extension that he signed in April, is the third Capital to either request a trade or have his agent do so on his behalf in the past month; forward Martin Erat made his request public in late November, while defenseman Dmitry Orlov's agent, Mark Gandler, spoke on behalf of his client two days later.
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