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Shero: Best Goalie Tandem We've Had in a Long Time

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

With the acquisition and signing of netminder Tomas Vokoun to a two-year, $4 million deal on Monday, Penguins general manager Ray Shero feels Pittsburgh now has one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL.

“The ability to get Tomas Vokoun, with the track record that he has and being a veteran guy like that, made sense for us. And we got him,” Shero said.

Vokoun has established himself as one of the league’s elite netminders during his 13 NHL seasons. He won 25 games last season with Washington, marking the ninth-straight season he has surpassed the 20-win plateau. The two-time All-Star ranks sixth among active netminders with 287 career wins.

And bringing in a player of Vokoun’s caliber will only help Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury had an outstanding 2011-12 campaign, setting a new career high and finishing second in the NHL with 42 wins. Among his many accomplishments, Fleury won 10 straight games from Feb. 18-March 17 (the second-longest streak of career) and had a 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1) from Feb. 18-March 25 – the third-longest stretch of his career.

But he also shouldered an intense workload, appearing in 67 games – including a career-high 23 straight appearances from Dec. 5-Jan. 31. Fleury has appeared in 62 or more games in five of the last six seasons, but the acquisition of Vokoun should ease some of that burden.

“We still believe in Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s one of the better goalies in the league," Shero said. "But the position is demanding, both physically and mentally. If you can get a quality guy like this that has a track record like Tomas has, mentally it will give Marc a break, but it also challenges him. It challenges Tomas as well. This is the best goaltending tandem we’ve had in a long time.”

The Penguins had targeted the goaltending position as a spot where they wanted to add depth. They eyed Vokoun up early, and then went out and grabbed him.

“What we have found, and it’s not hard to see, is that there’s just a lack of goaltending depth that’s available (in the league),” Shero said. “Instead of waiting until July 1, we identified Tomas and the chance to get his rights, that made sense to us. A guy like that, with his experience, made sense to us.

“It didn’t take too long to get a deal done. It’s good for both of us.”

The Penguins brass is quite familiar with Vokoun as a person and player. Shero was assistant general manager of the Predators during Vokoun's eight seasons in Nashville, assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerad was a teammates of Vokoun’s in Nashville and assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton was the general manager in Florida, where Vokoun played from 2006-11.

“Tomas is a good goaltender; he’s a good person,” Shero said. “I was with him for a number of years in Nashville. Tom Fitzgerald played with him in Nashville, so we know the character of the player.

Shero jokingly added: “(Vokoun’s) agent said Tomas still likes me because I gave him his first one-way contract way back then.”

But at the end of the day, this was a move to improve the depth of the Penguins’ roster and to help the team’s No. 1 goaltender.

“The thing for us is that this is to help Marc-Andre. It’s to help his game,” Shero said. “To have a tandem like that really gives the coach options. … To have two guys that can play and win games for you and to have a guy like Tomas that can also serve as a bit of a mentor as well with Marc is good. We feel good about our goaltending today.”

Authors: Michelle Crechiolo and Sam Kasan

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