Remember when the Leafs signed Michal Neuvirth to a PTO last year? It’s understandable if you forgot because his stint with the Leafs was brief and unmemorable. While the reason he was brought on was clear (to back up Frederik Andersen), why he was released was not made apparent at the time.
Over a calendar year later, we now have a better idea of what might have been the reason behind it. On the latest episode of The Leafs Report, James Mirtle of The Athletic said that Neuvirth wanted more money and decided to return to his native Czechia.
Mirtle says he thinks the Leafs expected Neuvirth to be their backup last year and Neuvirth just decided he didn't want to play for a low salary and went home. I don't think I've heard that before.
— draglikepull (@draglikepull) November 5, 2020
As alluded to earlier, the Leafs during the 2019 offseason had Michael Hutchinson as their best option to be the backup goalie which made the move for additional help become mandatory. Neuvirth was seen as a potential option to solidify the depth and potentially give Toronto a netminder that could lighten Andersen’s workload.
In his brief tenure with the Leafs, Neuvirth only made one appearance during the preseason and allowed two goals in a loss to the Buffalo Sabres. He later suffered an injury, missed a game against the Montreal Canadiens, and was cut the next day. Given all of that, it makes sense why the Leafs thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to meet his salary demands and stick with Hutchinson to start the season.
In the months since they let go of Neuvirth, the Leafs have gone through quite the transformation for their goalie depth. They acquired Jack Campbell in February, traded Hutchinson to the Avalanche and brought him back in free agency, and signed Aaron Dell as a potential third-string netminder. Hopefully, this position has been figured out for the foreseeable future given how it has included a revolving cast of characters since 2016.
As for Neuvirth, he signed with HC Sparta Praha back in January and remains on the roster to this day.