Tomas Vokoun, steal of the summer

Remember what I posted yesterday in my Free Agent Frenzy article? If not, let me refresh your memory:

HOWEVER…..Tomas Vokoun is unsigned and the goalie market stinks right now so maybe we can get him to sign with us on a cheap contract to mentor our young Czech netminder. Wishful thinking but it’s worth a shot.

Sometimes wishes come true.

In what’s been an already great off-season for the Washington Capitals and GM George McPhee, things were only made better today after he signed goalie Tomas Vokoun to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Yes, you read that correctly. A goalie who has consistently been one of the best in the league since the lockout has signed with the Caps for what is essentially back-up money. It is honestly hard for me to comprehend how Vokoun was unable to get more than this from another team when looking at what some other goalies went for this off-season. I understand that the goalie market is very thin every year because only so few teams need one, most would think that Vokoun would be on the front of people’s wish lists when it comes to signing one in the off-season. Just look at his stats with Florida:

2006 NSH 61 60 1380 82 1298 0.941 35.6
2007 NSH 44 44 1008 70 938 0.931 13.9
2008 FLA 69 69 1728 127 1601 0.927 11.9
2009 FLA 59 55 1514 98 1416 0.935 24.7
2010 FLA 63 62 1681 106 1575 0.937 29.7
2011 FLA 57 57 1411 144 1297 0.919 9.8

Yes, last season was a down year for him but his numbers aside from that are simply outstanding. It says a lot about how bad those Panthers teams are that they weren’t able to get into the playoffs backed by the seasons he had from 2008-10. These are nearly Veznia-quality numbers by most metrics. This is why I do not understand how the Caps were able to snag Vokoun for so cheap. I know he’s 35 and had a down year by his standards but look at some other moves teams made over the last couple of days;

The Phoenix Coytoes let Ilya Bryzgalov walk because he wanted too much money, leaving Jason LaBarbera the only goalie on the roster so they clearly needed someone who could at least be a 1 a/b goaltender. They signed Mike Smith, one of the worst goalies NHL last year (.900 save %, -5.5 SAA, was put on waivers by the Lightning mid-season) to a 2-year $4 million contract, meaning that he makes MORE than Vokoun now. That to me is just crazy. Smith is younger but he has only had one good season in the NHL as a starter and is one of the worst puck-handlers I have ever seen. I know Phoenix isn’t in the best shape financially but they are a team who have made the playoffs the last two seasons and it was backed by strong goaltending with Bryzgalov. They had a chance to grab a goalie of Bryz’s caliber with Vokoun for a somewhat low price and they sign Mike Smith instead. I don’t get it.

Then there’s Colorado who would rather trade away their first and second rounders next year for an unproven goalie with a nagging groin problem instead of signing Vokoun. Hell, they gave JS Giguere a two-year contract to be put in a similar role that Vokoun might have in Washington. Even Florida electing to give Jose Theodore nearly the same contract as Vokoun got in Washington was surprising to me but I think that’s just me being shocked that Jose Theodore makes the same amount of money as Tomas Vokoun.

In the end, you have to give a TON of credit to McPhee here. He managed to get a lot of value out of Varlamov but stayed patient on signing a back-up goalie to let the dust clear a bit and was able to snag Vokoun for a lot less than he should have paid for him. Everyone knows that Michal Neuvirth is good but he is still very young and giving him a goalie like Vokoun to learn from can be very valuable in years to come. It also allows the Caps to have a strong goaltending tandem like they did last year and it will be a lot better. It’s going to be exciting to see what Vokoun can do for a winning team now.


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