Is Tomas Vokoun An Option For The Maple Leafs?

May 18th, 2012 6 Comments

When you consider the overall depth between the pipes for the Toronto Maple Leafs there are far more questions than sure things.

Sure, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has the likes of James Reimer, Ben Scrivens (pending RFA this summer), Jussi Rynnas (pending RFA this summer) and Mark Owuya in the system, but what has he really got?

James Reimer’s disruptive injuries last season saw him go from a franchise savior in 2010-11 when he posted a 20-10-5 record to go along with a 2.60 goals against average and a 0.921 save percentage, to a very average goaltender in 2011-12 when he posted a 14-14-4 record with a 3.10 goals aganist average and a 0.900 save percentage.

Sophomore slumps occur for many second year goaltenders. In the case of Reimer, most of his issues look to be injury related, although there are those that continue to lament that Reimer’s weak glove hand and lack of focus on soft goals will ultimately lead to his demise as a legitimate NHL goalie.

In the case of Reimer, until we know the full extent of his injuries it is tough to project him as the Maple Leafs number one goaltender. Don’t get me wrong here, Burke maintains that he believes Reimer is still the real deal, but if Reimer is injured he will not be able to prove his worth.

Meanwhile, Scrivens is having an excellent playoff with the Toronto Marlies, posting an impressive 8-1-0 record to go along with an excellent 1.43 goals against average and a sparkling 0.951 save percentage.

In Scriven’s Burke has a goaltender that has demonstrated the ability to win in the AHL playoffs and may, in fact, emerge as a Calder Cup Champion. While Scrivens’ AHL numbers are impressive, there have been plenty of goalies that came up from the AHL only to flop at the NHL level.

Let’s not forget, Scrivens went 4-5-2 in 12 games with the Maple Leafs this season, giving up 35 goals while posting a 3.13 goals against average and a 0.902 save percentage.

Once again, Burke would like to call Scrivens his backup next season, or 1B to Reimer’s 1A status, but there is nothing written in stone.

Which brings us to the free agent market.

Left for dead by the Tampa Bay Lightning, everyone in hockey knows the success free agent goaltender Mike Smith is experiencing with the Phoenix Coyotes. Smith benefits from the tight-checking/defensive style of play that the Coyotes embrace. This doesn’t mean Smith hasn’t earned his wins this season, simply that he has gotten a lot of help along the way.

The point is, great stories like Mike Smith rarely happen, so if anyone out there expects Burke to sign Marty Biron, Scott Clemmensen or Ty Conklin on the cheap and have one of them post the type of numbers Smith has this season they are spending far too much time on the corner of Dundas and Sherborne (a known crack infested area in Toronto for those that don’t know).

And then there is Washington Capitals cast-off  Tomas Vokoun.

At 35 years of age Vokoun’s best days between the pipes may have already been played, but could he emerge as a viable short-term option for Burke and Company?

CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley posted on Twitter that Vokoun said he never intended to play for the Capitals for more than one season. This leads many to believe that Vokoun will test the free agent market this summer, which opens the door for Burke to negotiate a contract.

Last summer Vokoun took a gamble, opting to sign a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with the Capitals instead of signing a multi-year deal with another club. That was a huge pay cut on Vokoun’s $6.3 million salary in 2010-11, not that anyone in their right mind was going to pay that amount for the likes of Vokoun last summer.

Clearly, Vokoun took the pay cut in order to take a run at a Stanley Cup, a run that never really materialized for the Capitals this season.

Vokoun gave up his starting position to 22-year old Braden Holtby, which saw him ride the bench throughout the playoffs. Holtby led the Capitals past the Boston Bruins in the first round before succumbing to the New York Rangers in round two, posting an impressive 0.935 save percentage and a tremendous 1.95 goals against average.

During the regular season Vokoun posted a decent 25-17-2 record through 48 games with a 0.917 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average, which were right around Vokoun’s career averages of 2.55 goals against and 0.917 save percentage.

Vokoun stole a ton of games for the Florida Panthers and his success with the Nashville Predators is well documented, including a 36-win season with the Predators in 2005-06.

With Reimer’s future a huge question mark and Ben Scrivens’ future equally cloudy, would it not be a good idea for Brian Burke to secure a veteran goaltender?

Sure, Josh Harding could be had and there is always the chance that the Los Angeles Kings could make Jonathan Bernier available, but the cost of trading for Bernier would be huge, and is Bernier any better than Vokoun at this stage?

In order for Vokoun to sign in Toronto he would have to be convinced that the Maple Leafs were a contender. On paper, the Maple Leafs have a talented roster with two major areas of concern, goaltending and first line centre…and of course they have some defensive woes, but I digress!

Bringing Vokoun into the fold on a two or three year deal would allow Burke to focus on bringing in a top-flight centre, shoring up the defense and send the message that this team is serious about making a playoff run.

Sure, Vokoun has his fair share of pock marks, but his career numbers are excellent, and while he may have taken a slight step back this season he is far from done.

Burke already tried heading into a season with two young goaltenders (Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson), and it didn’t work. Perhaps the time has come to bring in another veteran?

Until next time,

Peace!

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    “The point is, great stories like Mike Smith rarely happen, so if anyone out there expects Burke to sign Marty Biron, Scott Clemmensen or Ty Conklin on the cheap and have one of them post the type of numbers Smith has this season they are spending far too much time on the corner of Dundas and Sherborne (a known crack infested area in Toronto for those that don’t know)”.

    Agreed, but first and foremost:

    AHHHHAAAAHHHHAAAAAHHHAAAAAAAAA!!!!

    If others only knew! Love that add in there dude. Good old N-Dub days brother!

    Back to hockey – might not be a bad idea provided, like you said, he’s willing to sign another budget contract. To be honest though, he’s not my first choice – I’d rather another Giggy type come in. Man, I wish we kept him – and I said that going into the summer last year!

    Dave

  2. Mark Ritter says:

    Knew you’d like that reference Dave! As far as Vokoun goes, he represents another stop-gap, and like many out there, I am not sure if he can get the job done. That said, despite the criticisms, as I pointed out, his numbers last season were right there with his career averages, so he didn’t sh&t the bed as many said he did last season. He, like any goalie, is risky, but if we assume the Leafs are going to play a more defensive minded/tight checking game I think Vokoun suits that style and would perform well. The bigger question heading into the season is with Carlyle in place does he have the soldiers to play “his style”? At this point, I say no, so Burke is going to have to make some roster changes. Burke has said all along not to get too excited about the FA market this summer. If that is the case he will have to upgrade via trade, which is a slippery slope at the best of times.

    Peace Bro!

    signed, your mortal enemy GUY Ducquette

  3. Hudson says:

    Hah you guys are funny.

    Man, I am so confused as to what the Leafs should do in net. I almost like the thought of going with Reimer and Scrivens as Ulmer (hate that writer) recently wrote on TML.com.

    I still wouldn’t mind Luongo. Dump a couple wastes of space like Komi and Army, and we’re way better off money-wise.

  4. Mark Ritter says:

    Hey Hud—

    There are no easy answers here. If Burke goes into the season with Reimer and Scrivens he will have a tough time getting help should they falter. When Reimer and Gus struggled last season everybody said Burke should go out and get a veteran, but he was never able to pull off a deal (assuming he tried, which I think he did). If you go into the season with a veteran at least you cover your arse and with goalies constantly in need Burke could always trade or demote his UFA signing or goalie he trades for. I think Burke is better off entering the season with options rather than two youngsters…Luongo? I dunno man…that contract is just so ugly. McKenzie and others have tried to put a positive spin on that contract, but it really is an albatross! If the Leafs were a player away I would say yes to Luongo…we all know they are not a player away, so I still say no!

    Peace! and Happy Victoria Day!

  5. Dave says:

    I’m with ay all the way Hud! I do agree though its another huge risk going in with Reimer/Scrivens/Rynass – I used Rynass in there because most clubs have to use theur 3rd stringer at some point during a season.

    IMO Rynass is trade bait here and the reigns will be given to Scrivens at the AHL level armed with the knowledge he will see NHL time as a thrid stringer when the injury bug hits or expectations are not met. I think he will be fine with that.

    Then, I think Burke turns to grizzled vet Biron, Vokoun, Clemmenson, Halak (not so grizzled), or best/worst case gets Lou in the fold if the CBA is sure to contain that amnesty clause.

    I dont think that clause is needed for any roster players currently – as bad a some have been ie: Army, Komo, Lombardi (only cause he doesnt fit the Carlyle mold.) All of those players have value albeit little. I do not see them as unmovable, just dont expect any value in the return, or expect to see a reclamation project with similar salary on of the players.

    My wish totally unreasonable of players includes:

    Hartnell/Clutterbuck/Nash/Parise/Kelly and Biron/Hedberg with Lu and close second/third.

    And dude I still hate Guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Grrrr……too bad we couldnt have put him away for 20 years plus!

    We’ll have to chat over a beer about the apology note I rec’d from the trouble dude down at 330 Jarvis….weird man but interesting.

    Dave

  6. Mark Ritter says:

    And…just over a week later, Steve Simmons clarifies my hunch…

    http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/27/simmons-leafs-interested-in-vokoun

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