- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday afternoon Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee pulled off what looked like a heist by trading oft-injured goaltender Semyon Varlamov to the Avalanche for first- and second-round picks.

Saturday he may have done something even more spectacular, signing arguably the top goaltender on the free agent market, Tomas Vokoun, to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. It’s a coup for the Caps, as the 35-year-old was thought to be in line for Ilya Bryzgalov money — somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million a year.

“[The Caps] weren’t one of the obvious candidates on the first day, but they have the same goal as Tomas does, which is to win the Stanley Cup,” his agent, Michael Deutsch, told The Washington Times.

“We are excited to add an elite veteran goaltender to the Capitals,” McPhee said. “We now have a nice blend of talent, depth, experience and youth in the goaltending position.”

The obvious candidates were Florida — where Vokoun spent the past four seasons — Colorado and Phoenix. The Panthers signed former Caps goalie Jose Theodore, the Avalanche got Varlamov and the Coyotes signed Mike Smith.

For the Caps, this signals a change in philosophy. McPhee and coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday they were content with letting Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby share the net.

“Let’s let these two guys go at it and share the responsibility and see how they do,” McPhee said.

Now, Holtby will go back to the Bears and the Caps will go into the 2011-12 season with a pair of goalies from the Czech Republic.

Vokoun is 262-267-76 in his NHL career — for a lot of bad teams — but had a .922 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average last year.

“I’m very excited to join the Washington Capitals organization,” said Vokoun in a statement released by the team. “It is a terrific team with a lot of talent and I look forward to doing everything I can for us to reach our ultimate goal in winning the Stanley Cup.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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