George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau have a dilemma on their hands that needs to be solved immediately.
The Caps have three young goaltenders, all of whom are capable of being starters for their team. However, the situation cannot be dealt with as it was the past season—there must be a No. 1 goalie.
Semyon Varlamov seemed to be the best of the three during the 2009-2010 campaign. He put up the most consistent play that season and played well during the 2009 and 2010 playoffs.
Varlamov started off this past regular season with a message—he changed the number on the back of his sweater to No. 1. Unfortunately, Varlamov is very injury prone—he's either very brittle or it's the price he has to pay for his extremely acrobatic and demanding style of play in net.
Varlamov went 11-9-5 this season with a .924 SV percentage, 2.23 GAA and 2 SOs. Despite a great save percentage, Varly didn't look very good this season, even when supposedly healthy. Varlamov won't be the starting netminder.
When healthy, Varly is a great goalie. He plays an aggressive style. He's good at coming out and challenging shooters and has great vision in the crease. He also has phenomenal lateral movement and is unnervingly flexible and quick. But, again, he gets groin injuries much too often to make it as a true NHL starter. He most likely would not be capable of playing the 50-60 games necessary to fulfill that kind of role.
He could be a very valuable backup, but being prone to injury is not an attractive quality in a backup netminder.
KHL team, SKA, has expressed lots of interest in bringing him home to Russia, but the young goaltender has stated that he wants to stay in Washington. SKA is willing to offer him lots of money—rumored to be around $4 million—but Varly doesn't seem to be after the money. Also, SKA does not have a good reputation in dealing with its players.
Varlamov could probably duke it out for the backup goalie roster spot, but he wouldn't get paid more than $1 million.
Michal Neuvirth has developed very nicely. When Neuvy and Varly were the only two goalies competing in D.C., Neuvy seemed to be filling the role of backup for awhile but he has always been the more consistent of the two.
Neuvirth has incredible rebound control, great control of his five-hole, good poise and is more consistent than Varlamov. However, Neuvy is still a little bit too injury-prone for comfort. Neuvirth also has a tendency to let weak goals in a little bit too often and doesn't defend the top of the net as well as he does the bottom.
Neuvirth knows what it takes to win, though. He won back-to-back Calder trophies with the Hershey Bears and emerged as a decent NHL postseason goalie this year.
During the 2010-2011 campaign, Michal posted a 27-12-4 record with a .914 SV percentage, 2.45 GAA and 4 SOs.
The numbers aren't anything to gawk at, but his performance was mostly consistent, minus during the eight-game losing streak during which the Capitals were changing their style of play.
Because of his performance this past season, Neuvirth has the best chance of beginning the regular season campaign as the No. 1 guy but, unless he shows significant signs of being able to develop into an elite goaltender, rather than just a good goaltender, he will eventually have to compete with Varlamov for the backup spot.
One of either Varlamov or Neuvirth will remain with the Caps as a backup. The Caps should be able to get great compensation for whichever one doesn't stay on. One does need to be let go or traded, though—all three of these goalies are too good to play in the AHL any longer.
Braden Holtby came into the picture this year. He played well during the Caps' development camp in July of 2010, but did not make the show at the start of the season.
He posted a 10-2-2 record along with a .934 SV percentage, 1.79 GAA and 2 SOs.
Of the three, Holtby shows the most promise and potential.
Here are five reasons why he will quickly earn the starting job and force one of the other two out of D.C.