Part II of an ongoing series of UFA goaltending targets, today we take a look at Michal Neuvirth.
A BIT ON NEUVIRTH
Neuvirth intrigues me a little bit because I think he could potentially be next year's best value goalie. I don't think he'll get near Antti Niemi money, but there's better than a ghost of a chance that he outperforms Niemi.
Neuvirth had a busy season that saw him split time between Buffalo and Long Island. Neuvirth's 2014-15 cap hit was 2.5M, a very manageable number for a starting goalie. The problem with Michal Neuvirth is that he's never played more than 48 games in a season (2010-11 with Washington), so getting a read on him is a little tougher than say, Antti Niemi.
WHY IT COULD WORK
Michal Neuvirth spent most of 2014-15 playing in Buffalo, a team that we know spent the entire year trying to be the absolute worst it could possibly be. They were the worst, but Neuvirth wasn't bad In fact, he was good. In 27 games with the Sabres, Neuvirth finished with a polished 918 SV% (about 32 saves a game.) That's a notch ahead of his career SV% of .912. That's impressive on a team who was trying to allow as many goals as humanly possible.
I'd be hard pressed to believe that any team (other than maybe the Sabres) is thinking about Michal Neuvirth as their potential number one goaltender in 2014-15. It would be a very (forgive the term) bold move for the Oilers to enter 2015-16 with Neuvirth as their number one goalie for the simple reason that we don't have a large amount of work to go on, but Neuvirth's time in Buffalo proved promising.
Neuvirth will begin the 2015-16 season on the right side of 30 (he's just 27), and as I eluded to earlier, I don't think many teams who are looking for goaltenders have Neuvirth first on their lips. Devan Dubnyk (that still sounds good) and Antti Niemi are unrestricted free agent goalies who are all going to be ahead of Michal Neuvirth on many teams' wish-lists. If the Oilers are serious about getting Neuvirth, they can likely do it while others try to lay claim on some of the bigger names, and for a significantly smaller chunk of change.
Offseason Goalie Targets
Offseason Goalie Targets
WHY IT MIGHT NOT WORK
Michal Neuvirth doesn't have a whole lot of work to go on. He's 27, which is a good age for goaltenders, but he's only got 168 career games played. Compare that to Ben Scrivens (129 games played, age 28), Jonas Gustavsson (148 games, age 30), Ben Bishop (170 games, age 28) and former teammate Jhonas Enroth (131 games, age 26). What do all of those guys have in common? Not a whole hell of a lot, other than they've got limited numbers to work with. It's kind of a mixed bag. Michal Neuvirth's limited numbers look pretty good from afar, but he's only got one season with more than 40 games, and that was four years ago. There's a certain leap of faith that's got to be taken if you're going to commit to any length of time based on this NHL player's experience.
CAN WE MAKE IT WORK?
Getting a goaltender is going to be a real test for new Oilers GM Pete Chiarelli. If Chiarelli can skip the hubbub of some of the bigger names, Neuvirth could prove to be a shrewd move. If Neuvirth can come to Edmonton and hang the same .918 SV% that he did in Buffalo, that's money well spent. He'd have to play about twice as many games as he did in Buffalo this year in order for him to be effective as a number one option, and there's absolutely no guarantee that he maintains such a lofty number on what could once again be a challenging year on defence for this Oilers team.
SHOULD THE OILERS MAKE AN OFFER TO MICHAL NEUVIRTH?
Yes. Do it now. Erm, uh, do it in July. The beginning of July, even. A couple years at 3.5M each. It's a fair number for a guy who's likely under the radar, and it's a deal that could pay dividends should it pan out. Should it absolutely flounder, a worst case scenario could see this player getting bought out for a little more than 2M on the remaining year.