Caps general manager George McPhee engineered his third trade in two days on Wednesday afternoon, making a three-player deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Washington traded goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla – obtained just yesterday from Phoenix in the deal that sent forward Martin Erat to the Coyotes – for goaltender Jaroslav Halak and a third-round choice in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Halak was a member of the St. Louis Blues at this time last week; he went to Buffalo in last Friday’s deal that sent goaltender Ryan Miller to the Blues. The 28-year-old goaltender was originally a ninth-round (271st overall) draft choice of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
He debuted with the Habs during the 2006-07 season, and has been in the NHL for the most part since then. Lifetime, he is 139-81-26 with 29 shutouts, a 2.38 GAA and a .917 save pct.
Prior to last week’s trade to Buffalo, Halak went 24-9-4 with four shutouts, a 2.23 GAA and a .917 save pct. in 40 appearances – all with St. Louis – this season.
Halak has a 10-11 lifetime mark with a 2.42 GAA and a .923 save pct. in Stanley Cup playoff play. Halak was brilliant in the Caps’ first-round playoff series against the Canadiens in the spring of 2010 when he helped eighth-seeded Montreal to engineer a shocking first-round upset of Washington, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning club that season.
Halak is in the final season of a contract that carries an annual salary cap hit of $3.75 million.
Neuvirth has been with the Washington organization since he was the team’s second-round draft choice (35th overall). He helped the AHL Hershey Bears to consecutive Calder Cup titles in 2009 and 2010, and he won 27 games with the Caps in his first full NHL season of 2010-11.
Neuvirth backstopped the Capitals into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that spring, but Washington was ousted in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning at that point.
Since that 27-12-5 season with the Caps in ’10-11, Neuvirth has struggled to stay healthy and has found himself taking a backseat to Tomas Vokoun and then Braden Holtby.
The 25-year-old Neuvirth is 21-24-9 in the NHL over the last three seasons, and he had asked McPhee to be traded to a club where he would have a chance to re-assert himself as a No. 1 NHL netminder. He figures to get that opportunity in Buffalo.
Neuvirth’s cap hit for this season is $2.5 million. He is under contract for next season as well.