Six-pack of questions: What will happen with Neuvirth?

Six-pack of questions: What will happen with Neuvirth?
January 3, 2014, 6:30 am
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Oates on goalie situation: "I just expect a good game"

Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Six Pack of Questions

Welcome to our weekly edition of Penn Quarter Sports Tavern’s 6-Pack of Questions, where we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.

Let’s get started.

 @md_dc Does the performance of Orlov and Erat post-vocal trade desire keep them on the #Caps or not?

Yes and probably not. I talked with Orlov yesterday and he told me he wants to stay with the Capitals, even though his agent, Mark Gandler, told me in late November that Orlov had no future in Washington. Quite honestly, Orlov has been the best of the left-handed defensemen the Caps have tried on that second pairing this season. Does he make mistakes in his own end and occasionally put himself at risk by jumping into a play that isn’t there? Yes. But he has the ability to make strong first passes and right now he’s the Caps’ best option as their fourth defenseman. As for Erat, he’s been better lately, but with Brooks Laich back in the mix, his ice time is about to diminish and that means his agent could be back on the phone with George McPhee, asking for a trade. Erat has 15 assists and no goals and that’s not enough for a team to take on a contract that pays him $4.5 million this season and next.

 @majonesy 88 When will the goalie situation sort out? Holts is #1, to not play? Neuvi paid more to not even back up?

For the record, Neuvirth is the Caps’ highest-paid goalie at $2.5 million this year and next. He hasn’t played since Nov. 22 and hasn’t dressed since Nov. 27, which means that since Thanksgiving, video coach Brett Leonhardt has dressed for more games for the Caps [one] than Neuvirth. The longer Philipp Grubauer remains with the Caps, the more likely it is that Neuvirth will be traded. Capitals coach Adam Oates says the goalie dilemma will sort itself out, but giving Grubauer six straight starts has done nothing but complicate the situation.  

 @kashdown what's up w Holtby? Every time he starts he seems to give up 4 or 5 goals.

We’ll never know unless Holtby gets back between the pipes. I think the Caps are using this opportunity to see if Grubauer can handle the pressures of the NHL and I think they have their answer, making it easier to trade Neuvirth. While Grubauer has played well since his callup, Holtby has not done himself any favors by allowing five goals in each of his last two starts. In fact, after going 8-3-1 with a 2.35 GAA .and 933 save percentage in November, Holtby went 1-2-1 with a 4.92 GAA and .863 save percentage in December. Quite honestly, soft goals on long and bad-angle shots have been a trouble spot for Holtby this season and he says it’s something he’s worked on during practices. After three straight losses by Grubauer, two of them after regulation time, I’d be surprised if Holtby doesn’t get the start in Minnesota. But I also thought Holtby would get the start in Ottawa on Monday night and at home last night against Carolina and was wrong both times.

[RELATED: Veteran mistakes costing Caps in losing streak]

 @naginther What kind of player do you think the Caps can get for Neuvirth? Erat?

I don’t know what they can get but I can tell you what I think they need. Neuvirth’s agent told me there are a handful of teams that are in the market for a goalie. The Islanders [Evgeni Nabokov, Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson] and Flames [Reto Berra, Karri Ramo, Joey MacDonald] appear to be the teams that need one most and both are more than $10 million under the salary cap. The Caps’ greatest need still seems to be on the blue line. The Isles’ Lubomir Visnovsky makes $4.75 million this year and next, putting him in the same range as Erat. Visnovsky is averaging 20 minutes a night for the Isles but he’s 37 years old. A more attractive pickup would be Andrew McDonald, who is 27 and making just $575,000 in the final year of a four-year deal. McDonald has been a workhorse for the Isles, averaging a team-high 26 minutes a game. In Calgary, defensemen Chris Butler and Kris Russell appear to be the most attractive blue liners. Butler, 27, is averaging 20:17 in ice time and is in the final year of a deal that pays him $1.7 million, but he’s also a minus-15.  Russell, 26, is averaging close to 24 minutes and has four goals and 12 assists and is a plus-1. He’ll also be an unrestricted free agent after making $1.5 million this season.  

 @silverbullet3g Do you see Wilson moving up to 3rd line duties next year, or will he be a career 4th liner?

To be honest, I thought Wilson would be playing on the Caps’ third line by now. But a strong season by Joel Ward [12 goals, 11 assists] has kept Wilson on the fourth line. I also thought Wilson have more ice time [7:08} and more offense [1 goal, 3 assists] than he’s provided this season. Until Wilson is used in a top six role, it’s hard to say what he can do offensively. But with Ovechkin, Brouwer and Ward above him, I don’t see any way he gets more ice time unless one of those players gets hurt or goes into a funk. Ward has another year and $3 million left on his contract, so I’m not even sure if much changes for Wilson next year, either.

 @i_bern-em Rumors are out that its Flyers Caps in the 2015 Winter Classic, is it official? Where will it be played?

First off, nothing is official and spokesmen from both the Capitals and the NHL have told me that an opponent and a site have not been determined. That said, I think it’s a very safe bet that the game will take place at Nats Park, which will probably feel a lot like the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. When we were in Philadelphia I was told the Flyers would be the Caps’ opponent, but recently I heard it could be the Bruins. I do believe it will be one of those two teams, each of whom have had their own Winter Classics. I’ll be interested to see what HBO can uncover in the weeks leading up to next year’s Classic and if D.C. can replicate the magic of this year’s snow-driven classic at the Big House.