Net reinforcement: Capitals sign goalie Tomas Vokoun to one year, $1.5 million deal

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When free agency began yesterday, Tomas Vokoun was set to be the goalie to make the biggest splash on the open market. As it turns out, he’s made a huge splash but not with the contract he signed. Instead, he’s making waves by who he’s signed up with.

Vokoun signed a one year contract with the Washington Capitals worth $1.5 million to be the Caps starter next season and make them the one of the on-paper favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2012. Vokoun comes to Washington from division rival Florida where on many nights he was the Panthers’ best player by far.

Playing goal for a team that didn’t do much in the way to support him with goals, Vokoun still had stellar numbers last season going 22-28-5 with a 2.55 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. Vokoun also pulled off six shutouts in an up and down season that saw him sometimes have issues dealing with coach Peter DeBoer. DeBoer’s insistence during part of the season to split time between Vokoun and backup goalie Scott Clemmensen got Vokoun a bit riled up and essentially sealed the team’s fate in being able to keep him after his contract was up.

Now, Vokoun heads to the Capitals where he’ll tutor fellow Czech goaltender Michal Neuvirth and help ensure that fellow youngster Braden Holtby continues his growth in the AHL. Vokoun will also finally be playing for a team that can score a ton of goals to support his play in net. After a career that saw him go from Nashville to Florida, one thing he’s never gotten before is offensive support. Joining up with a team featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Knuble getting goals, despite the Caps problems last year, won’t be a problem.

The most remarkable thing about Vokoun’s deal is that it’s both neither a long one nor an expensive one and there may be a guy he’s got to thank for that: Evgeni Nabokov. Last year, Nabokov was poised to cash in on a long-term deal worth a ton of money only to find there weren’t any starting jobs to be had. Teams either filled needs in goal internally or with cheaper players. Nabokov was left on the outside looking in during free agency and ended up signing to play in Russia before coming back to the NHL in a tumultuous affair that saw him sign a deal with Detroit only to be taken on re-entry waivers by the Islanders. He’s still currently Isles property and hasn’t played in the NHL since the end of the 2009-2010 season.

At 35 years old, Vokoun likely didn’t want to suffer the same fate and after the Colorado Avalanche acquired Semyon Varlamov from Washington in a seemingly lopsided deal in favor of the Caps, the starting opportunities around the league were all but gone. Considering that Caps GM George McPhee was able to get a first and second round pick from Colorado for Varlamov and he landed a #1 goalie in Vokoun for just $1.5 million, we’re starting to think McPhee is a Jedi master.

The signing is a great one for the Capitals as they’ve now got the #1 goalie they’ve never had before. While goaltending wasn’t always the major issue with Washington, they now have no doubts whatsoever about who their big game guy is in net. Vokoun will help accent the Caps’ dedication to defense and help make everyone’s numbers a lot better by giving them someone to believe in. One thing’s for sure, after the moves the Caps have made already two days into free agency, they’re looking awfully strong.

If it all pays off in a Stanley Cup next June, the Caps and their fans will get to have that celebration they’ve been praying for since Alex Ovechkin put the team on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the regular season standings.

AP sources: Capitals to host Maple Leafs in outdoor game at Naval Academy

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Two people with knowledge of the situation say the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will play an outdoor game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, next season.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday because the NHL had not announced the event. The game is scheduled to be played March 3 at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that hosts Navy football games.

It will be the first NHL outdoor game at a U.S. service academy, though quite possibly not the last. The league has explored doing games at the Army’s home at West Point and at the Air Force Academy.

It’s the third outdoor game for the Capitals and Maple Leafs and the first in the Washington area since the 2015 Winter Classic downtown at Nationals Park.

Capitals-Maple Leafs at the Naval Academy will be one of at least three outdoor games next season. The Ottawa Senators will host the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic on Dec. 19, and the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres will play in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York.

NHL Network revealed on air that the league would announce a game at Navy on Monday.

Trio of Red Wings prospects ‘making a statement’ in AHL Calder Cup playoffs

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The Detroit Red Wings saw their playoff streak come to an end earlier this spring, but their farm team in Grand Rapids continues its postseason run, qualifying for the Calder Cup final.

The Griffins clinched a spot in the championship series with a 4-2 win against the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday.

It has been during this playoff run that a trio of prospect forwards seem to have left quite an impression on Detroit’s coaching staff, led by Jeff Blashill.

Tomas Nosek, Tyler Bertuzzi and 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov have all been productive for the Griffins throughout this AHL postseason. This could help put them into the conversation for NHL roster spots in the fall, and present something of a youth movement in Detroit after years and years of chasing the playoffs.

Nosek is the oldest of the three at 24 years of age. Bertuzzi is 22 years old, and Svechnikov is only 20.

“I don’t know what all the pieces will be for us next season, but certainly Nosek made us confident he can be an effective NHL player,” said Blashill, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Bertuzzi and Svechnikov, they are making a statement as well. They are becoming elite players in the AHL playoffs, and those are statements you want to make. We’ll look at them in camp and make our decisions based on who is going to make us better.”

The team’s general manager, Ken Holland, has in the past expressed his hesitation about a full-on rebuild, but after missing the playoffs, the Red Wings have an important few weeks ahead of them and the future of their franchise. They currently have the ninth overall pick in the NHL Draft following April’s lottery, and, after a busy trade deadline, four third-round picks, according to CapFriendly.

With six picks in the first three rounds, and 11 picks in total, Detroit should be able to help further stockpile their organization with a number of promising young prospects. It’s been suggested that the areas of concern for the Red Wings heading into the draft are up the middle and on the blue line.

Up front, all three aforementioned forwards — Nosek, Bertuzzi and Svechnikov — spent some time with the Red Wings this past regular season. Nosek and Bertuzzi each improved their overall point totals this season compared to 2015-16, and have been able to maintain a point-per-game pace in the playoffs. In Nosek’s case, he’s just over a point per game. Svechnikov had 20 goals and 51 points in 74 regular season games — his first full AHL campaign.

“Certainly part of us getting better next year is the young people on the (Red Wings) taking a step,” Holland told MLive.com. “And, hopefully, there is a player or two or three here that can push their way onto the team.”

Coyotes’ Rieder undergoes ankle surgery, expected to be out 8-12 weeks

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Tobias Rieder underwent ankle surgery after suffering an injury at the recently concluded World Hockey Championship, the Arizona Coyotes announced on Saturday.

Per the Coyotes, the operation was successful and he is expected to make a full recovery. However, the 24-year-old right winger is expected to be out eight to 12 weeks, as he goes through rehab.

With that timeline, he should be ready for training camp in September.

For the second straight year, Rieder was injured while playing for Germany in the IIHF tournament. Initially, it was reported that the Coyotes didn’t believe this latest injury was serious.

This past season, Rieder scored a single-season career best 16 goals in 80 games. He’s about to enter the final year of his two-year contract, which has an annual cap hit of $2.225 million.

Despite concussion history, Clarke MacArthur says ‘I’m going to play if I can’

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Ottawa Senators forward Clarke MacArthur has again emphasized his desire to continue his playing career, despite another regular season derailed by a concussion.

It will, however, depend on what doctors tell him.

MacArthur missed all but four games in the regular season because of a concussion suffered during training camp. In January, it was reported that this latest concussion would keep him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season — more bad news that followed a 2015-16 campaign in which he played only four games.

In a surprising development, MacArthur was cleared and returned to the Senators lineup late in the season, just before the playoffs started. During Ottawa’s impressive postseason run, which ended Thursday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final versus Pittsburgh, the 32-year-old forward had three goals and nine points in 19 games.

On Saturday, he revealed to the Ottawa Citizen that he had been dealing with discomfort in his neck during the playoffs. He was also adamant it was nothing else other than a neck ailment, and that he will get an MRI to see what it could be.

As for his playing future?

“I don’t know what the play is,” said MacArthur, per the Ottawa Citizen. “I just want to take a week or two and see how I feel. I still love playing the game. I’ve got to talk to the doctors and take a week or so and see where I go.”

Despite a history of concussions, MacArthur has in the past stated that he wants to continue playing. He is about to enter the third year of a five-year, $23.25 million contract.

“If everything works out, then I’m going to play if I can.”