The Penguins wanted to improve their goaltending depth this offseason. The team set its sights on netminder Tomas Vokoun, then went out and got their man.
Pittsburgh sent a seventh-round pick in the 2012 NHL draft to Washington in exchange for Vokoun. Then the Penguins signed the Czech goalie to a two-year, $4-million dollar contract.
“The whole team is great. I’ve played against them for five years,” Vokoun, 35, said. “I know that was one of the reasons why I decided to (sign). I want to be part of teams that are winning.”
While the trade and signing of Vokoun took place Monday morning, the deal wouldn’t have happened without some groundwork by Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
“Ray reached out to me. We had a good conversation,” Vokoun said. “I really liked what he was saying. I like Ray personally, and I’ve known him for a long time. But Pittsburgh, it’s a great hockey city. It’s a great team. I’m happy to be playing in hopefully a winning environment.”
Vokoun, who said he "feels great" and is "fully healed" from a groin injury suffered last season, certainly has an impressive resume during his 13-year NHL. He’s topped 25 victories for nine straight seasons, and topped 30 victories three times. His 287 career victories rank sixth among active netminders.
Vokoun’s career really took off after the NHL lockout. Since 2005-06, Vokoun appeared in 401 games, eighth-highest total in that span, and posted 36 shutouts – an average of 5.1 per season. In the last four years, he’s posted a .923 save percentage and has twice been named an NHL All-Star (2004, ’08).
With the combination of Vokoun and Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins have arguably the best goaltending tandem in the NHL.
“Marc is a goalie who’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s played quite a lot of hockey,” Vokoun said. “I don’t think he needs anyone to tell him what he needs to do. There’s a lot of pressure on him. It’s not easy to play for a team and an organization that’s a contender every year. Any area I can help, I’m going to try and do so.
"This is a team sport and that’s how I approach it. I know what situation I’m going into. I feel great about it. He can be a help to me and I can be a help to him. We will both benefit from that. I’m excited."
Playing for an organization that is a contender was a big selling point for Vokoun.
“I would love to win the Stanley Cup. I’ve been playing for a long time and I haven’t had a chance to do that,” Vokoun said. “For me, I think I could be useful in many situations. Whatever they’re going to need me to do, I’m going to try and do the best I can to help the team be successful.”
Authors: Sam Kasan and Michelle Crechiolo