By signing Tomas Vokoun the Capitals suddenly possess much more NHL experience in net but the move also alters the dynamic of the team’s depth chart at the position at least for one year.
Vokoun, 35, might not have received a guarantee that he’ll be the starter but it’s hard not to pencil him into that top spot given his experience over 13 years in the NHL. General Manager George McPhee even hinted as much during a conference call with reporters Sunday.
Michal Neuvirth, 23, who asserted himself in his rookie season to become the 2011 playoff starter, will certainly still get NHL starts but his workload likely won’t be as significant as it would have been if Washington hadn’t picked up the veteran Czech.
Meanwhile, Braden Holtby, who appeared bound for Washington after the trade of Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche, will have a similar role to the one he held in 2010-11. McPhee said Holtby will spend time in the AHL with the Hershey Bears but that the Capitals “won’t hesitate” to recall him as necessary.
“What we’re trying to do, as we’ve always done, is really develop our players as best we can. Sometimes overcooking them is a little bit better than exposing them too early,” McPhee said. “We love what we have in Holtby and we certainly love what we have in Neuvirth, but from an organizational standpoint we’re all better off having this depth at this position.”
McPhee added that having Holtby playing consistently in Hershey and receiving guidance from associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig will be important for the Saskatchewan native’s development.
As for Neuvirth, McPhee said he believes the younger Czech will be able to learn from Vokoun.
Vokoun “doesn’t have to come in and mentor Neuvirth but I think Michal can learn a lot from him,” McPhee said. “Our conditioning coach has had Vokoun in the past in Nashville and really thinks his personality, his work ethic and all those intangibles will be really good for Michal.”