Tomas Vokoun had made it clear that he would not be returning to the Washingon Capitals next year, so it was really only a matter of time before he was dealt. Today that time was up; Washington traded their negotiating rights for Vokoun to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a seventh round pick in this year’s draft.
Once the Penguins acquired Vokoun, they wasted no time in signing him to a two-year, four million dollar contract. Vokoun did have a no-trade clause in his contract, but waived the clause since his contract would have expired on July 1 anyways.
Vokoun, who spent just 48 games with the Capitals before missing out on the end of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs with a groin injury, will now join the Caps’ nemesis in the Penguins. This is in spite of persistent rumours at the end of the Capitals’ season that Vokoun would be joining the KHL’s Lokomotiv squad.
According to Vokoun himself, his year in Washington was on more of a trial basis than anything. He told the Washington Post, “for me, it was never my intention to be here more than a year. I was looking at it as a one-year thing and I’m sure that’s how it’s gonna be.”
A 35-year-old Czech Republic native, Vokoun held down a formidable 25-17-2 record with a 2.51 goals against average in his short time with Washington.
Pittsburgh will be Vokoun’s fifth team, having spent time in Montreal, Nashville and Florida. He has maintained a veteran presence and proved this year that he still has the chops to be a number one starter in the NHL in spite of nagging injuries.
It’s worth looking at why the Penguins would sign a goaltender of Vokoun’s caliber to play backup, which likely goes back to Fleury’s performance in the Penguins’ playoff drive this year. Fleury brought his team to the playoffs with Pittsburgh finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, but once the post-season rolled around he had a league-worst 4.63 GAA and an .834 save percentage. The Penguins are likely looking to have two viable options in net in case of unpredictable key moment slumps like this, as well as unforeseen injuries.
Pittsburgh is in good hands with Vokoun, but speculation now turns to who the Caps’ number one will be. Options include the more experienced Michal Neuvirth and playoff hero Braden Holtby, or maybe we’ll hear more from Caps general manager George McPhee in the coming months. Stay tuned.