Tomas Vokoun, who carried the Nashville Predators to the playoffs the past two seasons by winning a combined 63 games, was acquired Friday afternoon by the Panthers for a 2008 first round draft pick and second round draft picks in this year's draft.
Vokoun, a 30-year-old native of Czechoslovakia who has won at least 25 games in each of the four seasons, has established himself the past several years as a consistent No. 1 goalie. In 2005-06, he was 36-18 with a 2.67 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Last season, Vokoun was 27-12 with a 2.40 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Vokoun is the latest in a series of deals made by the Panthers over the past seven days to establish the team as a strong playoff contender. The Panthers also signed 30-goal scorer Nathan Horton earlier this week to a franchise-record six year deal and defenseman Bryan Allen last week to a five year deal.
"Tomas is a highly skilled and extremely competitive netminder who is clearly a top 5 goalie in the NHL," Jacques Martin said. "He played a critical role in the success of the Nashville franchise and we believe that he will make an immediate impact on our club. We are confident that this acquisition sufficiently addresses our goaltending needs and proves that we are committed to bringing success to the Panthers organization."
"In addition, Tomas is a high character individual who perfectly fits the ideal model for a Florida Panthers player. He has always taken an active interest in his playing community and we are sure that he will be a player that our fans will undoubtedly enjoy to watch compete each night."
The acquisition of Vokoun continued what is becoming a tradition of the Panthers swinging big deals at the NHL Entry Draft. Along with acquiring Bryan Allen and Alex Auld at last year’s draft, the Panthers acquired Val Bure for Rob Niedermayer at the 2001 Entry Draft and goalie Trevor Kidd at the 1999 Draft. They also traded the No. 1 overall pick in 2002 while still selecting top-rated prospect Jay Bouwmeester.
Vokoun was originally selected by the Canadiens in the ninth round of the 1994 Draft. He was chosen by Nashville in the ’98 Expansion Draft.
Vokoun has been a workhorse for the Predators with only two exceptions. He was out from Oct. 23 through Jan. 9 last season after injuring his thumb during a 6-0 victory over the Canucks. And in 2005-06, Vokoun missed the final eight games of the regular season and the Predators’ five playoff games against the Sharks due to a blood clot in his abdomen.
The Panthers will decide in the coming days whether to bring back Ed Belfour, who is an unrestricted free agent July 1, or make a qualifying option to Alex Auld.