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Capitals acquire goalie Halak for Neuvirth, Klesla

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Capitals on Wednesday acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla.

Halak joined the Sabres on Friday as part of the trade that sent Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. Halak leaves Buffalo without playing a game for the Sabres; he was the backup to Jhonas Enroth on Monday against the Dallas Stars.

"He's played well in Montreal, he's played well in St. Louis, and we hope he can come here and play well," Capitals general manager George McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. "He's a good goalie and he can get hot. The objective was to try to upgrade the tandem and we did."

McPhee said he had been looking into upgrading his goaltending for a few days.

"We've been thinking about it this week," he said. "We looked at all opportunities and where we can upgrade on our team, and what's available and what's the price. The more we thought about this, the better it looked. And we were able to accomplish it. We didn't have to give up picks; we got a pick and in a real good draft."

McPhee said Halak will join the team Thursday in Boston. Braden Holtby will start in goal for the Capitals on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). Philipp Grubauer was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup.

McPhee said Halak and Holtby will split playing time over the Capitals' final 20 games.

"Both guys will start games," McPhee said. "We'll see where it goes."

In 40 games this season, Halak is 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He can be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Halak, 28, has a history with the Capitals. In the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs he was the goaltender for the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in a seven-game upset of top-seeded Washington, ending the Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes after a Presidents' Trophy-winning season. He allowed three goals on 124 shots in the final three games of the series.

A 2003 ninth-round pick of the Canadiens, Halak has 139 wins and 26 shutouts in 260 NHL games with the Canadiens and Blues.

Neuvirth is 4-6-2 with a 2.82 GAA and .914 save percentage in 13 games this season. A 2006 second-round pick (No. 34), Neuvirth has a record of 59-41-13 in 134 games, all with the Capitals.

McPhee said sending Neuvirth to Buffalo would provide the 25-year-old with an opportunity to earn more playing time.

"He [Neuvirth] wasn't happy being a No. 2 and so we tried to accommodate him," McPhee said. "And we brought in an experienced guy. I think it's an upgrade on the tandem, which is what we wanted to accomplish. ... He didn't [ask for a trade], but earlier in the season he said he wanted more opportunities and he just wasn't comfortable being the No. 2, which is what he's been."

The Capitals acquired Klesla on Tuesday from the Phoenix Coyotes as part of the Martin Erat trade. The 31-year-old had one goal and three assists in 25 games with the Coyotes. Taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the fourth pick of the 2000 draft, Klesla has 48 goals and 111 points in 648 games with the Blue Jackets and Coyotes.


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