At 35, Tomas Vokoun knows he doesn’t have much time left be on a winning team with a chance at the Stanley Cup. And for the Czech netminder, Washington, DC is the place be as he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal to come to the Caps Saturday.
“The money side, it’s not great but, you know, I think the opportunity is unbelievable,” he said on a conference call Sunday morning. “I decided that this chance for me to extend my career and play for a great team and have fun playing.”
Vokoun, who has at total of 262 big league wins, has been in the playoffs just twice in his NHL career, spending the last four seasons with the cellar-welling Florida Panthers. In those years in the Southeast Division with the Cats, Vokoun got an up close look at the resurgence of the Capitals in the Alex Ovechkin era and liked what he saw.
“I know how good that team is,” said Vokoun, who turned down a three-year offer from the Panthers. “I know I’m going to have fun. I’ve been on winning teams before but nothing like Washington. … I just felt I wanted to move on and try something different.”
Though Capitals General Manager George McPhee said he was happy to go into upcoming campaign with youngsters Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, picking up an “elite goaltender” like Vokoun — who posted a goals against average of 2.56, a save percentage of .922 and was 3-0 with two shutouts against the Caps last year — at a reasonable rate was just too much to pass up.
“We were certainly willing to play our top young goaltenders, but I think people will agree this addition makes us deep again at the most important position in the game,” McPhee told reporters. “We love what we have in Holtby and we certainly love what we have in Neuvirth, but from an organizational standpoint, we’re all better off having this depth. … I guess we got lucky because he wanted to go to a team that has a chance to win a Cup.”
Though the Capitals regard him so well, Vokoun has not been given an assurances on a starting role.
“My expectation is to play the best I can,” he said. “I didn’t get an guarantees or anything like that and I wouldn’t expect it if I was signing for $5 million. This is a great team with a lot of great players. I think this team is built to win and obviously who ever is playing, it’s up to the coaches and they decide for that particular game who gives the team the best chance to win.”
And well they will be in competition, McPhee said “Michal can learn a lot from” Vokoun, who is excited to have the countryman on his squad.
“From what I heard, he’s a really low key guy, really nice guy so I’m forward to having him as a teammate,” he said.
With Matt Bradley gone, maybe Vokoun will not only stop pucks, but stand up for his fellow Caps too.