Michal Neuvirth is the first Capital to take the plunge overseas. But you can bet he wont be the last.
One day after hitting the ice with his Washington teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Monday, the 24-year-old goaltender agreed Tuesday to a one-year contract with Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga.
Details of the contract have not been released but like most European contracts signed by NHL players, it is believed to have a clause that allows Neuvirth to return to the Caps in the event of a labor settlement between the leagues owners and players.
The NHLs owners instituted a lockout of its 700-plus players at midnight on Saturday and as of Tuesday morning 32 players had signed with teams in five different European Leagues. Click here for an updated list.
Neuvirth, who is from Usti Nad Labem of the Czech Republic, played three seasons for Sparta Praha from the time he was 16 until the Capitals drafted him at 18 in the 2006 NHL draft 34th overall.
Neuvirth is in the final year of a two-year contract that pays him 1.15 million. He will become a restricted free agent following this season.
Neuvirth is coming off a rocky season and an even rockier offseason. In 38 games for the Caps last season he went 13-13-5 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.
A knee injury on April 5 cost him the starting job and opened the door for rookie Braden Holtby, who was spectacular in playoff series against the Bruins and Rangers. Holtby is expected to report to the AHL Hershey Bears on Sept. 30 for the start of training camp.
Neuvirth raised some eyebrows over the summer when he referred to Holtby as the weakest competition hes had since coming to Washington in 2009. In the same interview he was also critical of Alex Ovechkin and former coach Dale Hunter and later said his meaning was lost in the English translation.
With Neuvirth committed to playing in the Czech League, who will be the next Capitals player to jump ship? Ovechkin appears to be ready to sign with either Dynamo Moscow or CSKA of the Kontinental Hockey League and an announcement could come as early as today.