Maple Leafs release goaltender Michal Neuvirth from tryout contract

Former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth has been released from a professional tryout by the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

TORONTO – Michal Neuvirth’s dream of playing for his favourite childhood team has fizzled for an all-too-familiar reason.

The goalie simply can’t stay healthy.

The 31-year-old Czech was released from his professional tryout from the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday morning after a chronic lower-body injury prevented him from practising or making a scheduled trip to Montreal for Monday’s pre-season game.

With opportunity in the air, fellow backup candidate Michael Hutchinson pitched a 3-0 shutout facing a veteran-laded Canadiens squad.

"I thought Hutch did a good job," coach Mike Babcock said post-game.

The Maple Leafs recalled third-stringer Kasimir Kaskisuo upon Neuvirth’s release.

Barring a waiver-wire scoop or a trade, Hutchinson is expected to assume backup duties for the club. He went 2-3 with a .914 save percentage in five appearances for Toronto last season and earned a one-year contract worth $700,000.

"I’m just taking one day at a time," Hutchinson said. "Something I’ve learned in my career is to not look too far in advance. Things change all the time in hockey."

Neuvirth’s nagging ailment limited him to just seven NHL appearances for the Flyers in 2018-19, when he posted a .859 save percentage. He was encouraged by the opportunity in Toronto in large part due to the organization’s investment in a top-notch medical staff that had helped an injured Tyler Ennis resuscitate his career last season.

Neuvirth missed multiple practices at training camp and allowed two goals over two periods of work in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Buffalo, his first game action since Jan. 3.

"There were some mistakes I made, but I thought it was a solid effort," Neuvirth said. "My body felt good, and I’m excited for another opportunity."

Hutchinson, 29, arrived in Toronto mentally prepared for the sporadic schedule of workhorse Frederik Andersen’s No. 2.

"The older you get, the easier that role becomes. The more you see that role, the more comfortable you are in it," Hutchinson explained. "Earlier on in my career, I might get too worked up about playing the second game on the road back-to-back with travel when I hadn’t played in two weeks. Now, as you get older, you let those things roll off. You go with the flow.

"You have to find a role within the team. That’s supporting Freddy and being ready when my number’s called."

That the Leafs invited Neuvirth to camp indicates they are still in the market for goaltending depth, but Hutchinson was unflustered by the challenge.

"There’s always competition. It’s the NHL," Hutchinson said. "When they signed him, I didn’t think much of it.

"Every single team in the NHL needs to have two really good goalies. Realistically, you need three good goalies in the organization. The number of teams playing just two good goalies is very minimal."

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