Florida Panthers should keep Tomas Vokoun, at least for now

vokounstays.jpgIt might not stay this way for long, but at least at the moment, new Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he wants to hold onto Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun. The Florida Sun-Sentinel shares the story.

“He sounded like he wants to improve the team,” Vokoun said of Tallon. “And he thinks we’re going to be contending for a playoff spot. I came here with one goal and that was to make the playoffs here. And I haven’t reached it. I don’t like to leave with something you set to do and you didn’t do it. So I definitely would like to stay.”

Vokoun has consistently said he doesn’t want to leave, but noted before the deadline he would be willing to consider waiving his no-trade clause in the right scenario. He reiterated that after the season.

While he’s far from well-known with casual hockey fans, Vokoun is the darling of many stats bloggers – and for good reason. Although the goalie rarely puts up good win-loss numbers (he went 23-28-12 during the 2009-10 season), it’s hard to blame Vokoun. His lowest save percentage in Florida was 91.9 while he posted a 92.5 mark in 09-10 and 92.6 percentage in 08-09. That’s an absolutely impressive run, even though his work failed to get Florida into the playoffs.

I mean, you have to be pretty good to force this season’s unexpected breakout goalie Craig Anderson into a backup role, right?

Then again, does it really matter if the team still falls short of the postseason anyway? He’ll make $6.3 million in salary next season while leaving a $5.7 million dent on the Panthers salary cap. As James Mirtle points out, Florida surprisingly has the seventh-highest payroll in the NHL as of this moment. Naturally, that will change by the time October rolls around, but it’s still stunning that the team has so much invested in an unproductive club.

Overall, I agree with the decision to keep Vokoun – at least for now. If the Panthers struggle out of the date (a fall tradition, by the way), then I imagine the team could still receive a decent return for the talented goalie. Still, you never know, a goalie-desperate team might throw a lucrative trade package their way for him.

Tallon should recognize that Vokoun could be the key to improving the Panthers … whether he’s between the pipes or on the trading block.

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    Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

    Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

    The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

    Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

    But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

    “I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

    Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

    Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

    Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

    It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

    It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

    For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

    Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

    Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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    Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

    Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

    The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

    Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

    Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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    In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

    Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

    Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.