After one year in Washington, Tomas Vokoun has signed a two-year deal in Pittsburgh. Buren Foster photo
After botching free agency last summer – and switching agents as a result – Tomas Vokoun didn’t even make it to the open market this season, instead signing a two-year, $4-million contract with Pittsburgh shortly after the Penguins sent a seventh-round pick to Washington for his rights.
Coming off the first-round playoff implosion of Marc-Andre Fleury against Philadelphia, Vokoun’s status as a No.1 through most of a 14-year career is bound to create talk of either a “push” or an “insurance policy” for the Penguins’ incumbent Stanley Cup-winning starter. But both Vokoun, who lost his starting job in Washington to an injury going into the playoffs, and Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero were quick to dispel talking of an impending goaltending controversy.
Shero instead talked about decreasing Fleury’s workload after matching a career-high with 67 games played last season – his fourth-straight with more than 60 games – and pointed out the trend towards tandems to the Pittsburgh Tribune:
“The goalie position has changed,” Shero, who was an assistant General Manager in Nashville when Vokoun started his career with the Predators, told The Tribune. “You need a good tandem now, and I think that’s what we have. For Marc to play 69 games, well, that was a lot of games. He never admitted to being tired last season, and he likes to play a lot. But this will make him a better goalie. This isn’t a knock on Marc-Andre Fleury. This is to make Marc-Andre Fleury better.”
For Vokoun it’s a chance to win, something he also took a shot at by signing a bargain one-year, $1.5-million contract with the Capitals last summer after his agent miscalculated the free agent market and he was left without a team looking to fill a firm No.1 hole. He began the search again when Washington, buoyed by the playoff emergence of Braden Holtby and the steady play of Michal Neuvirth, who was also hurt in the playoffs, told him they didn’t intend to re-sign him. So his new agent, Allan Walsh, who also represents Fleury, started the search for a new team Thursday and quickly found an interested party in Pittsburgh.
“I’m not coming to Pittsburgh to be a No. 1 or a No. 2,” Vokoun told The Tribune. “It was important for me to go to a team where I would feel wanted, to go to a good team,” Vokoun said. “It just felt like a good fit for me to be in Pittsburgh.”
After expecting a starting-role in Washington, Vokoun will be arriving in Pittsburgh to support starter Marc-Andre Fleury. Buren Foster photo
InGoal Magazine has featured Vokoun’s rise from late-round draft pick – he was selected in the ninth round, 226th overall, by Montreal in 1994 – several times in the past, including a chat this season about the constant evolution that allows him to stay on top of a fast-paced game at age 35, and the importance of experience in staying ahead of that curve.
“The goalie position has always been one where you can’t buy experience when you are young and it’s just something you have to kind of pick up along the way,” Vokoun told InGoal. “You make so many mistakes over the years and you learn from them. You can’t script that and tell somebody, you have to go through hard times and struggles yourself. And then either deal with it and you are successful or you can’t deal with that and you are not going be able to stay in the League.”
Age, said Vokoun, doesn’t have to be as big a detriment for goaltenders as it may be for some players, and the experience allows older goalies to fine tune their save selections, become more confident about when to block and when to react, and what works best in each and every situation.
“I play a whole lot different than I played two years ago or three years ago, and I play totally different than 10 years ago. As goaltending evolves you have to change too,” Vokoun said.
To read the full article – and a lot more thoughts from Vokoun on the evolution away from a pure blocking system back towards the more reactionary skating style that has always been a big part of his game – be sure to read the full article from the December edition of InGoal Magazine.
And if you’re wondering about the Bauer TotalONE equipment Vokoun was wearing this season, check out the full InGoal review.