Tomas Vokoun’s time with the Washington Capitals lasted under a year but was full of twists. He didn’t get to start opening night, but he won 25 games. He was the no-doubt starter down the stretch, until he aggravated a groin injury.
In brief retrospect after being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a seventh-round pick and signing a two-year deal worth $4 million, the 35-year-old goaltender expressed appreciation about this season.
“We all know what happened. We can’t control injury. I enjoy my time up there. When I talk to [general manager George McPhee], George said even if my year went really well, then they wouldn’t probably be able to squeeze me under the cap,” Vokoun said in a phone interview Monday. “The way it went, I kind of figure they’re gonna go with the young kids. It’s normal. It’s business, right?”
Business for the Caps means very likely moving forward with Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth. For Vokoun, he’ll be backing up Marc-Andre Fleury and pushing the former Stanley Cup-winning goalie who struggled in these playoffs.
Vokoun turned down a chance to sign with the Detroit Red Wings last offseason to start for the Caps, but the security of a two-year deal and a comfortable relationship with Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero made Pittsburgh his next destination.
“I want to be in a team like I was in Washington when there’s winning atmosphere, you go into the playoffs and stuff like that,” Vokoun said. “You never know what’s gonna happen. I’m just gonna look at it like I’m gonna prepare myself the best way as I can. You saw what happened in Washington last year. So you just never know ahead of the time what’s gonna happen. In a month I’m 36 years old. I think it’s a good fit for me at this point.”
Fleury in entrenched as the Penguins’ starting goaltender, and Vokoun recognizes his new reality while acknowledging that things can change.
“I’ve played in NHL for 14 years now. I understand the situation. On the other hand you never know what’s gonna happen and who knows?” he said. “It’s not about who’s 1 or what is his name. It’s who gives the team the best chance to win. Saying that obviously I know that Marc is young and he’s long-term and all that. But all that I can control is to prepare myself that when I get the chance to play so I play good and enjoy myself.”
Vokoun thanked McPhee for giving him and his agent a chance to shop around to find a new team. The Penguins weren’t the only team that wanted the veteran netminder, but Shero was willing to move quickly and guarantee two years.
“It was kind of funny when last year I got two offers and this year there was a lot more interest, definitely,” Vokoun said. “I just felt it kind of in my gut it was a good situation for me.”