I had fully intended on taking a break from blogging until the Stanley Cup Finals were over, as I have kept busy by writing about the Kings on The Hockey Writers (http://thehockeywriters.com/author/rshanmugam/), but Ray Shero waits for no one. He couldn’t even wait until I did my player by player season in review post before the draft, the inconsiderate jerk!
As you should know by now, the Penguins traded away their 7th round pick in 2012 to the Washington Capitals for the rights to pending unrestricted free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun was given permission by the Capitals early last week to seek a potential team for next year. He had a no trade clause and had no intention of staying in Washington, so the team decided this would be the best way to receive some compensation for him.
|"The playoffs aren't over yet? I do what I want."|
Apparently after talking to Ray Shero, the two found a match for multiple years. Vokoun waived his NTC and shortly after the deal, the Penguins announced that Vokoun had signed a 2 year deal, worth $2 million each year. Here are a few of the factors that went into this deal:
- Shero has worked with Vokoun before, back when they were both in Nashville
- Vokoun has the same agent as Fleury (Allan Walsh), so there is a healthy dynamic in place potentially
- The goalie market this year is weak in terms of truly tested experience
- There is a strong belief that Fleury played too many games down the stretch last year, which may have factored into a poor playoff performance
- Neither Brent Johnson, nor Brad Thiessen, looked capable enough last season to take on a bigger role this year
|Okay, maybe it wasn't all Johnson's fault.|
My overall thoughts are this is a great deal as it stands right now. Vokoun has had injury problems lately, especially with his groin, but he fills a huge need for the Penguins if he stays healthy. I personally felt that getting a backup goalie was the top IMMEDIATE need for the Penguins. There are the contract situations with the forwards – but they don’t expire until next summer, and the defense played bad – but they are all under contract, so goaltending was still a fluid situation which could be fixed easily and quickly. Also, hopefully we don't see this happen in Pittsburgh:
Here are some other miscellaneous thoughts on this deal:
- Vokoun has clearly signed on to be a backup. He is not a threat to Fleury, and the team called Fleury before the deal to talk to him about it. Vokoun even said in interviews he does not care how much he plays, he just wants to win a Cup. There is NO goalie controversy whatsoever.
- Expect Vokoun to play in roughly 25 games or so. The Pens wanted Fleury to play in 60 games last season and he ended up in 67 due to a variety of factors. As we all saw how he floundered through March and April, there is no chance the Pens will let that happen again. Vokoun should be good for at least 20 starts plus other relief appearances if not more starts.
|Add 1 to the Euro group!|
- This move both pushes Fleury, since he has a starting caliber goalie behind him, and also allows him to relax because he knows he can have an off night and feel confident about the goalie stepping into his place. Athletes like Fleury always want to be the guy, and often have trouble trusting others to do a job as well as they can do it themselves (reference: Big Ben always playing at 50% when injured). A goalie of Vokoun’s caliber takes that weight off of Fleury’s shoulders, while also letting him know that he can’t slump without getting replaced. It also helps the coaching staff in the same way as they can hopefully trust Vokoun more than they did Johnson or Thiessen last year.
- Many people have questioned spending $2 million on a backup. It is pricey; there is no question about that. However, the cap is expected to go up to $70.3 million according to many sources, which makes it a manageable number to deal with. Also, Ray Shero will not let this signing break the bank on keeping a top 3 center, I assure you. There are enough other disposable players that he can use in a salary dump if absolutely necessary. Paying $2 million to see Fleury fresh and strong in the playoffs is well worth the money. He is capable of carrying this team on his own when given the right situation, and this is a part of creating the right situation.
- Finally, goodbye Brent Johnson. You were a wonderful backup 2 years ago, not quite as good last year, but you always seemed like a great guy. It was nice having you in Pittsburgh and I hope you do well elsewhere. Thank you for punching Rick DiPietro for that everlasting memory. Good luck.
- I’m not even going to address the 7th round pick; it’s not even worth it.
What are your thoughts? Like Vokoun, hate Vokoun, too much money, or just right?