Friday morning at 11:59, Tomas Vokoun was sitting in the catbird’s seat. Not only was he the top free agent goaltender available, he was thought to be one of the top free agents overall. Word was that Vokoun was not only still wanted by the Florida Panthers (despite not being able to reach a deal prior to the start of free agent signing period), but the Colorado Avalanche were likely suitors. It seemed like a long shot that he would even be around by 1pm.
Nothing ever goes as planned, as the saying goes.
The first signing by Dale Tallon and the Panthers was a two year deal for netminder Jose Theodore. After that, it seemed academic. Vokoun was going to Denver, giving a young, promising team the goalie they didn’t have last season. Seemed like a matter of time for the announcement. Then came word that the Avalanche had completed a trade with the Washington Capitals for RFA Semyon Varlamov, who had been talked into staying stateside after declaring his intention to play in the KHL. With the high price Colorado paid in the trade (2012 first round pick, conditional 2nd round pick), they found their starting goalie.
Well, how about the Phoenix Coyotes? They need a goalie, don’t they? Nope, earlier they had signed former Tampa Bay Lightning backup Mike Smith to a multi-year deal. All told, eleven goalies signed contracts on Friday, none of them were named Tomas Vokoun. Saturday, he signed a shockingly meager one year, $1.5 million deal with the Capitals, a $4.8 million pay cut from his actual 2010-2011 salary. It also happens to be the same amount that his replacement, Theodore will earn in Sunrise. Now we know that Panthers offered him 2 an 3 year deals at roughly $3 million per year. No matter how much money you have, that’s a lot of cash to leave on the barrelhead.
On the ice, it works out well for Vokoun. He finally goes to an annual playoff team that has a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup. But let’s be honest, that was not his intent when he said “I want to see what’s out there.” This is a huge steal for the Caps, as they get not only a top end goaltender but two extra draft picks from a potential Vokoun suitor in Colorado. And it’s a professional high point for Vokoun, but financially, I’m sure this wasn’t what he had in mind when deciding to leave Sunrise. That’s the new reality for a higher-end goaltender in today’s NHL.
So he’ll take the ice for the Caps in October as the best bargain in the league, hoping to strike that final contract at age 36 he was hoping to get this year. That extra year will certainly bring him more wisdom about what to expect in his next deal. But I think Dale Tallon did the best thing by moving on. He’s said he only wants guys who really want to be in Florida and, at this point in his career, Vokoun was looking for something better. Time will tell if he found it.
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