Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall hasn’t made a lot of bad moves during his time as GM. He’s made even less that aren’t logical in some way.
Re-signing Michal Neuvirth last season may just fall under both.
Amidst a lackluster 2.82 goals-against-average and a .891 save percentage season, Hextall rewarded Neuvirth with a two-year/$5 million extension — a $875,000 raise on his then-current deal.
Neuvirth has only played two seasons in the orange and black, but last year was easily his worst. In 2015-16 he challenged Steve Mason for the starting role and even picked up some key wins, including two in the playoffs against the Washington Capitals.
Last season, the Czech Republic native got off to a bad start and never found his footing, compiling an 11-11-1 record while dealing with injuries most of the year. He was the inferior to Mason last season, but because he was cheaper and more open to a platoon role, Hextall extended him.
However, there were other goaltending options in trades and free agency that offered more than past failures.
Neuvirth and newcomer Brian Elliott have already begun battling for the starting role in training camp. Although the pair are supposed to be a platoon, there is always the chance one runs away with the starting role.
I said this in Elliott’s preview, but I expect the former Flame to be the better goalie rather than Neuvirth.
Last season was Neuvirth’s worst in the league and even at the top of his game, he’s a fringe starter. The Flyers defense may not be better than it was last season and injuries are always a concern with Neuvirth.
That doesn’t set up the former Capital for a bounceback season. Elliott, though, has been through plenty of ups-and-downs throughout his career and has rebounded before.
What the Flyers could realistically use from Neuvirth is a solid 35-game season. That’s a slight increase from last season and sets up Elliott for about 45 games. That’s a perfect amount for the 32 year old, who has played 42-49 games over the past three years.
For Neuvirth, 35 games is not an easy amount to handle based on previous seasons. Every season he seems to be hit with the injury bug. To start proving he was worth the extension, he needs to stay healthy and improve mightily from last year. If he does, goaltending won’t be an issue for the Flyers.