WASHINGTON - Making sure both of their homegrown goalies stick around, the Washington Capitals signed Michal Neuvirth to a $5 million, two-year contract extension Saturday.
Even though he's been the team's No. 2 goalie this season, Neuvirth will be paid more than usual starter Braden Holtby, who signed a $3.7 million, two-year deal in February.
"While some people may consider Michal a backup this year, we don't consider him a backup," Capitals general manager George McPhee said before the Southeast Division champions' regular-season finale against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. "We think he's an outstanding goaltender. And he's been a great pro this year. Hasn't played as much as he wanted to — and didn't whine and didn't create any issues. We had a great conversation with Braden about it beforehand, and he holds Michal in high regard."
Neuvirth will make $2.4 million next season and $2.6 million in 2014-15. He was picked in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft by Washington.
The 25-year-old goalie from the Czech Republic ranks third in career wins in franchise history with 55, but he's been overtaken by the 23-year-old Holtby.
Neuvirth was 4-5-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average in 13 games this season. Holtby, meanwhile, was 22-12-1 heading into his start against Boston and will be coach Adam Oates' top choice when the playoffs begin next week.
Asked about paying Neuvirth more than Holtby, McPhee said: "Sometimes, it's the way it goes."
The GM was enthusiastic about the notion of having two goaltenders the team likes under contract for each of the next two seasons, with no need to compete to sign someone else in free agency.
"It was a big part of it. It's the most important position in the game, and we've got two real good ones. We wanted to keep them in the stable and in terms of the financial commitment at that position right now, we're in pretty good shape," McPhee said. "And we want to avoid the free-agent game this summer. It's not something we enjoy getting into and having to rely on."
McPhee added: "They may be free agents, but they're never free. They're pretty expensive."
As for the status of injured forward Brooks Laich, sidelined since April 4 with a groin injury, McPhee said: "He's doing really well. Great attitude. Feels great. Hope he starts skating this week or next."
McPhee said that if Laich starts skating in the next two weeks, the player could be ready in time for the second round of the playoffs.
"Maybe before that, though, with this guy," McPhee said. "He works as hard as anybody works."
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