Goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who was acquired by the Islanders at the trade deadline to replace Chad Johnson as Jaroslav Halak's understudy, may be moving towards unrestricted free agency, according to a report in Pro Hockey Talk.
Neuvirth's agent told PHT that his client is looking for a starting role next season and hasn't yet begun talks with the Islanders on a contract offer.
"We haven't heard from the Islanders," Neuvirth's agent, Patrik Stefan, told PHT via email. "And Michal is ready to be the number one goalie."
(Note: Yes, it's that Patrik Stefan)
It was a really weird season for Neuvirth. He had a sterling .918 save percentage and a hard luck 6-17 record with the dreadful Sabres, but went 1-3 with an .881 save percentage in five games with the Islanders. He may have been an upgrade to Johnson, but between the limited starts and lackluster stats (and the team's general struggles in March and April), Neuvirth didn't provide a whole lot of relief for Halak.
That's not to say he definitely won't be back. Newsday's Arthur Staple set his own expectations at 40% for a return, but also acknowledged that Neuvirth "likely will seek to challenge for a No. 1 job elsewhere."
So if Neuvirth walks, where could he go and who could the Islanders bring in to replace him? Starters Antti Niemi and Karri Ramo could be moving on and there's a wealth of back-ups available as UFAs this off-season. Options range from "he might be interesting" to "oh god no please god no" to "I thought he retired." Maybe a trade could be in order for one of the Senators 38 goalies or perpetual rescue target James Reimer.
Because goalies are voodoo, Neuvirth might still be the Islanders best option, provided his short time with them was an outlier.
Garth Snow has a while before he needs to make a decision. But as we learned this season, having a reliable back-up goalie can be paramount to a team's success and a fanbase's sanity.