Tomas Vokoun was considered one of the best free agent goaltenders available July 1 when free agency began Friday across the NHL. Vokoun had been with the Florida Panthers for four seasons and had earned respectable numbers for a team that has not made the playoffs since 2000 (22-28-5, 2.55 GAA and .922 SV% last season). Yet, July 1 came and went and Vokoun had not signed anywhere. Meanwhile, fellow netminders like Mike Smith, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Mathieu Garon found new homes Friday.
Not only that, but the Panthers signed former Washington Capitals goalie Jose Theodore. Vokoun had two separate three-year contract offers from the Panthers, but turned down both of them, ultimately deciding to take a 80% pay cut and agreeing to join the Caps on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million.
"The money side, it's not great, but I think the opportunity is unbelievable," Vokoun said Sunday. "Obviously it was disappointing day for me on July 1. For whatever reason I was in a bad spot and Washington came in."
The Caps, however, did not expect to come to Vokoun's aid. General Manager George McPhee said Sunday that the team was content with the moves that they had made in recent weeks - acquiring Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward and Roman Hamrlik - and the young goaltending tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. But signing a goalie like Vokoun was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"The only way we would have done this was for an elite goaltender," McPhee said. "I don't think we anticipated being this fortunate. "We thought we were done a couple of days ago. This was a significant move that we were not anticipating."
Vokoun said that he was not given any guarantees regarding the starting position and did not expect to receive any. McPhee reiterated that point, admitting that while Vokoun's experience gives him an advantage over his fellow countryman Neuvirth (whom Vokoun has never met), there will be competition for the No. 1 spot.
Vokoun admitted that he was disappointed about not receiving a long-term deal worth more money on the open market, but playing for a perennial Stanley Cup contender is something that he has never done before. Vokoun has played in 632 regular season games, but only 11 playoff games in a career that began in 1996.
"It's one thing I know I'm gonna have fun," Vokoun said. "I've been on winning teams before, but nothing like Washington."