Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Neuvirth in the fold to back up Mason

In the first hour of the free-agent period, the Flyers shored up their crease, signing journeyman netminder Michal Neuvirth to a multi-year deal.

According to multiple reports, Neuvirth's deal is worth $3.25 million over two years, which represents a slight pay cut.

The 27-year-old Czech Republic native will serve as  the backup to  Flyers starter Steve Mason. It's a chance to regain form from earlier in his career as a touted prospect in the Washington system. He finished just 7-20-4 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.98 goals-against average over 32 games split between the Sabres and Islanders last season.

Over  seven North American campaigns with the  Capitals,  Sabres and  Islanders, Neuvirth  has posted a 66-63-17 record with a .912 save percentage and 2.73 GAA. He went 6-17-3 with the NHL-worst club in Buffalo, but three of his six wins were shutouts. There's a strange parallel here, as Tommy Soderstrom, in his final season as a Flyers goalie in 1993-94, won six games all year but two by shutout.

Neuvirth once held the starting job with the Caps, and appeared in as many as 48 games in one season back in 2010-11 where he won a career-high 27 games. That could bode well for Mason, whose nagging injuries and heavy workload the last few seasons required a backup with greater health, youth and experience.

Hextall alluded to just that in saying: “He’s a proven goalie. One of the attractive things for us with a backup goalie is, God forbid, if something happens to Mase [Steve Mason], he can carry the load and he’s done that in the past. We think we brought in a real good goalie who is going to give us a solid backup and probably play more than the typical backup."

That should put to rest any questions whether Rob Zepp could -- or should -- be elevated to an NHL backup position. As of this moment, he's still the nominal starter for the Phantoms. Zepp made a memorable debut before Christmas, eventually finishing two stints in the NHL with a 5-2-0 record, but his goals-against was .288 and his save percentage worked out to 88.8 percent -- indicators that success at the next level may be elusive.

Ray Emery, who was brought back to sub for Mason on two straight one-year deals, departs the franchise for a second time after going 19-23-9 with two shutouts and a GAA approaching three-per-game over 59 appearances.

According to Dave Isaac of the Courier Post, the Flyers are now roughly $4.11 million under the salary cap. They can spend $11.255 the rest of the summer, thanks to the 10 percent overage that's allowed before opening night.

That number does not include the $1.3 million qualifying offer Ron Hextall gave to restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto earlier this week.

Later in the evening, per multiple beats, Hextall indicated he's done moving pieces but will be amenable to taking more money off the salary cap -- something which becomes more important the closer it gets to the end of summer. 

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