Updated 5:26 p.m.: Tomas Vokoun knew from the beginning of the 2011-12 season he likely wasn’t a long-term fit in Washington, given the organization’s depth in net with several young prospects vying for ice time.
So when the season ended, Vokoun and his agent received permission from the Capitals to pursue a trade to a team he could sign with prior to July 1 when the veteran netminder was set to become an unrestricted free agent.
That search resulted in Washington trading Vokoun Monday to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal, for a seventh-round pick in the upcoming 2012 draft.
“Even if this season went really well, [General Manager] George [McPhee] said it would have been tough to get me under the salary cap,” Vokoun said in a phone interview. “I figured they would go with the young guys. That makes sense. I had a great time in Washington.”
Vokoun posted a 25-17-2 record in his one season with the Capitals, recording a .917 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average before a groin tear in late February ultimately derailed his season.
Vokoun’s departure makes sense for the Capitals, who will likely rely on a platoon of home-grown netminders at the NHL level next year. Both Braden Holtby, 22, and Michal Neuvirth, 24, are ready to compete for starts in Washington, making a veteran presence unnecessary.
“It’s a business and I knew it coming in,” Vokoun said. “They didn’t come to me and I never pushed [to stay] either. I had a one-year deal and this makes sense for everyone.”
After his experience last summer, when the fre agent market bottomed out and left him with few options Vokoun, 35, didn’t want to wait to find a new home but wanted the security of a multi-year deal. The Penguins gave him that and reunited him with Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, who was an assistant general manager during Vokoun’s time in Nashville.
“I think it’s a good fit for me,” said Vokoun, who is expected to serve as Pittsburgh’s backup and lessen Marc-Andre Fleury’s workload. “I know Ray, I know what kind of guy he is and it’s a great team with big potential. …I want to be in a winning organization and at this stage of my career there’s only so many stops. It felt like the right fit, the right place for me.”