How Tomas Vokoun wound up joining the Washington Capitals

General Manager George McPhee didn’t expect that he would have the opportunity to add a top-flight veteran goaltender on the second day of NHL free agency. But Tomas Vokoun, the biggest name among free agent goaltenders this summer, didn’t anticipate not receiving a number of lucrative offers for his services either.

After the first day of free agency passed and Vokoun remained unsigned, his agent contacted the Capitals with an offer McPhee couldn’t ignore.

“We were told early yesterday that Tomas Vokoun wanted to play on a top team and that he would forgo a big deal to do it,” McPhee explained in a conference call Sunday.

The Capitals signed Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, considerably less than what many predicted for a netminder who’s tied for the best save percentage in the league since 2005-06.

“The money side, it’s not great, but I think the opportunity is unbelievable,” Vokoun said in a conference call with reporters. “Obviously it was disappointing day for me on July 1. For whatever reason I was in a bad spot, and Washington came in.”

Vokoun’s addition gives the Capitals plenty of depth in goal. And although McPhee continued to stress the organization’s confidence in both Michal Neuvirth, 23, and Braden Holtby, 21, he couldn’t pass up the chance to bring in the veteran.

McPhee said even after trading Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for first- and second-round picks the only way he would have added another netminder to the NHL roster was “for an elite goaltender like Vokoun.”

“This is quite a move for our organization,” McPhee said. “No one was anticipating that a player of this caliber would be available. We were certainly willing to go with the two young guys. The concern would be if we had an injury to one of those two, how deep would we be after that? Those were our initial thoughts [after trading Varlamov] and we were working on adding another top minor league goaltender when this opportunity presented itself.”

Vokoun, 35, has played at least 57 games in each of the past four seasons and 632 regular season contests over the course of his career. That experience appears to give him a head start on being Washington’s No. 1 goaltender for 2011-12, but Vokoun said he received no such assurances from the team’s management.

“My expectation is play the best I can,” Vokoun said when asked if he was told he would be the starter. “I didn’t get any guarantees or anything like that, I wouldn’t expect it if I was signing for five million.”

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