At least one vestige of the craziness that hit the NHL on the first day of the free-agent market lingered into day two Saturday, with the Washington Capitals the lucky beneficiaries.
Capitals general manager George McPhee landed the best goaltender on the market Saturday afternoon when he signed former Florida Panther Tomas Vokoun for one year at $1.5-million (all currency U.S.), according to ESPN.com. This came one day after he traded talented-but-brittle goaltender Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for the astounding price of a first-round and second-round pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Vokoun, who turned 35 on Saturday, had to settle for a relatively cheap contract for a birthday present, which made as much sense as some of the long-term, lucrative contracts handed out Friday to lesser players. Former Tampa Bay Lightning backup Mike Smith, for example, signed for two years at $2-million per year with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Vokoun did turn down an offer from Panthers GM Dale Tallon before the free-agent deadline of July 1. But when the flag dropped on the auction, Tallon signed Jose Theodore a two-year contract for $1.5-million per year.
Vokoun wound up a free agent, even though his numbers last season were better than Theodore's. He had a 2.55 goals-against average and .922 save percentage for the Panthers, an inferior team to the Minnesota Wild, where Theodore had a 2.71 GAA and .916 save percentage as Niklas Backstrom's backup.
By Friday, Vokoun was seemingly headed to the Avalanche. But Colorado GM Greg Sherman inexplicably paid a big price for Varlamov and Vokoun wound up on the outside looking in.
Now McPhee has two good young goaltenders in Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth with Vokoun to serve as mentor or grab the No. 1 job if either of them falters.