Just when you thought GM George McPhee was "done" making deals this off-season, he goes off and does it again. Mid-day Saturday, on his birthday no less, McPhee signed veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun to a one-year deal, reported to be worth $1.5 million. It was another stunning move for an organization that has now turned over a quarter of their active roster in a week's time.
Less than 24 hours after announcing to all that he was finished chasing free agents, and specifically saying the team would compete next season with Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby as their two goalies, McPhee went out and signed the veteran netminder many thought could complete this team.
If you're ever invited to play in a poker game with McPhee, politely decline.
Vokoun, who also celebrated his 35th birthday Saturday, went 22-28-5 with a 2.55 GAA and .922 SV% in 57 games for a Florida Panther team last season that finished last in the Eastern Conference last season. The 12-year veteran with the Panthers and Nashville Predators owns a lifetime 2.56 GAA and .917 SV%.
Vokoun was expected to be one of the more sought after free agent goalies available, but McPhee was able to snag Czech native for a quarter of what some experts thought he might go for on the open market, and more than $1 million less this season than Colorado gave to Semyon Varlamov and equal to what Florida gave Jose Theodore.
"We are excited to add an elite veteran goaltender to the Capitals," McPhee said via press release. "We now have a nice blend of talent, depth, experience and youth in the goaltending position."
"I'm very excited to join the Washington Capitals organization," Vokoun said in the same press release. "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 of winning the Stanley Cup."
McPhee has now acquired five veteran players in the last week. It's an easy pattern to recognize that McPhee definitely saw weaknesses in the Capitals lineup and took significant strides to address those needs. Vokoun was the capper though. Neuvirth and Holtby were both excellent last season in their starts for the Caps -- both even carried the team at times when the lineup struggled.
The team easily could have come into the season with the Neuvy/Holtby pair to start the season and made additions if they saw fit. But in Vokoun, McPhee seized an opportunity to be pro-active and upgrade at a position that wasn't even a priority. Vokoun will bring presence to the cage for the Caps. Neuvirth and Holtby are both tremendously talented, and Vokoun is only on a one-year contract and is, after all, 35, so it's not like the Caps are signalling that they are unhappy with their two young netminders.
But Neuvirth seemed to lose some luster down the stretch last season as he carried the workload of the No. 1 guy through the playoffs, and Holtby, for all his talent and confidence, still could use another season in the "A" to work on his maturity and decision-making during play. It's a position of great flexibility for McPhee, being able to stash perhaps his best long-term goalie at Hershey for another season.
It's also an embarrassment of riches for the team that had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season to have three goalies they can comfortably turn to at any time.
The signing moves the Capitals even closer to the salary cap for the upcoming season, with contracts for Karl Alzner and Troy Brouwer still due. McPhee has his work cut out for him to make all the pieces fit under the constraints of the cap. It's entirely possible we will see some players that are under contract traded in the upcoming weeks. We could see defenseman Tom Poti bought out or enticed to retire.
McPhee has all summer to make things work out. With what he's done in the last 36 hours, anyone want to bet against him?