Is Tomas Vokoun An Option For The Maple Leafs?
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,