Tomas Vokoun learns from Evgeni Nabokov’s example on when to say “yes” to a deal

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The Washington Capitals stunned the NHL world yesterday when they signed one of the best goalies in the league, Tomas Vokoun, to a one year $1.5 million deal to become the Caps starter and turn the Capitals into the offseason’s leader in the clubhouse (sorry Philly). A big part of the equation of the Caps landing the best free agent goalie was the man himself.

Heading into the offseason, the 35 year-old Vokoun seemed likely to land in one of a few spots. Teams like Phoenix, Colorado, and his own team Florida had openings in goal. Vokoun could’ve stayed in Florida to help the Panthers with their total rebuild, but they opted to go with Jose Theodore instead. Phoenix decided that former Lightning goalie Mike Smith was their man in goal and the Avalanche swung a deal with Washington to get Semyon Varlamov to be their starter.

All of a sudden, Tomas Vokoun was a potentially high-priced goalie alone on an island with no place to go.

That position is one that last year’s top free agent goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, found himself in. After a stellar career in San Jose, Nabokov at age 35 was poised to hit the market as the hottest of goaltending commodities. After all, teams like Chicago and Philadelphia despite Stanley Cup finals appearances were in the market for goalies. The Flyers went so far as to acquire Nabokov’s rights to negotiate with him. Instead the Blackhawks opted to sign Marty Turco on the cheap and the Flyers went full speed ahead with Michael Leighton and Nabokov was out of options to his liking.

While Nabokov could’ve taken reduced offers in both years and money like other goalies did that summer, he opted to jump to Russia and the KHL instead. With Tomas Vokoun potentially looking at a similar fate he decided to change up his personal view on things as The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera shares.

“The money side, it’s not great, but I think the opportunity is unbelievable,” Vokoun said in a conference call with reporters. “Obviously it was disappointing day for me on July 1. For whatever reason I was in a bad spot, and Washington came in.”

Throughout Vokoun’s career he’s played with mostly losing teams. After eight years in Nashville from 1998 to 2007 he moved on to Florida where the Panthers haven’t seen the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season. That kind of career path can lead you on the road to being thankful for a shot to play for a winner, something Vokoun took very seriously. After all, he was looking at the possibility of not having an NHL job at all even in spite of being one of the best and most unfortunate goalies the last three years in the NHL.

Whereas Nabokov and his stats and records showed that he had a major case to make as the go-to guy, some couldn’t get past Vokoun’s win-loss record while playing for some very bad Panthers teams. Instead, his last three years were stellar putting up save percentages of .926, .925, and .922. His goals against averages over that time are equally consistent going 2.49 three seasons ago and 2.55 in the last two. And those are his numbers on a bad team, imagine what he might be able to do on a team that’s newly committed to playing tough defense and is capable of scoring a ton of goals. All of a sudden things are looking good for Tomas Vokoun going into free agency after next season.

If the gamble on Vokoun’s end pays off, he’ll show that sometimes swallowing your pride is worth it in the long run.

Johansen wishes he was there to shake Kesler’s hand after Predators won

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Ryan Johansen isn’t backing down about his criticisms of the way Ryan Kesler plays. Not after the Nashville Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks. Not as he recovers from emergency surgery.

That was the top bulletin-board material from a great interview Johansen participated in with TSN 1040 Vancouver on Wednesday, as the refreshingly candid forward discussed a wide array of topics.

For instance, Johansen:

  • Praised the hockey acumen of Nashville fans, backing up P.K. Subban‘s praise of the market.
  • Went into detail about his harrowing injury. Johansen explained that, at first, the seemingly innocent hit by Josh Manson would just be one of those “that’s going to leave a bad bruise” moments. Toward the end of the game, he was a shift or two from telling Peter Laviolette that he’d be a liability to his team. After the contest, he couldn’t even walk out of the shower, and that’s when medical staff determined that a painful injury required emergency surgery.
  • The bittersweet feelings of seeing his team advance to a Stanley Cup Final without him.
  • He spoke about how confident he felt during a postseason run that’s drawn rave reviews.

Still, the juicy stuff was about Kesler. That comes at around the 10:50 mark of an interview worth listening to in its entirety.

Nice. That’s basically the opposite of Detroit Red Wings players regretting shaking Claude Lemieux’s hand and maybe the other extreme of Martin Brodeur snubbing Sean Avery, right?

(It feels necessary to discuss Milan Lucic getting weird during the handshake lines, too. Ah, memories.)

Johansen admits that he was a Vancouver Canucks fan growing up, and while Kesler wasn’t one of his favorite players, he certainly cheered his endeavors. That … won’t happen again anytime soon, as you can note.

Johansen expects a full recovery from that surgery, so yes, we can all pencil in the rematch between those two Ryans in 2017-18.

Hot take: there won’t be handshakes.

Blues add Darryl Sydor as assistant coach

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The St. Louis Blues continued to assemble the coaching staff for Mike Yeo on Wednesday when they announced the hiring of former NHL defenseman Darryl Sydor.

Sydor previously served as an assistant on Yeo’s staff for several years when he was the head coach of the Minnesota Wild. Before joining the Blues, Sydor was an assistant coach for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves this past season.

“I am excited to have Darryl back on my staff,” Yeo said in a statement released by the team. “He was an outstanding teacher during our time in Minnesota and will add a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team.”

Before joining the coaching ranks Sydor was a defenseman in the NHL for 18 seasons, playing 1,291 games for the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and Blues. The Blues were his final stop in the NHL, playing 47 games for the team during the 2009-10 season. He was a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams, winning it with the Stars in 1998-99 and then with the Lightning in 2003-04.

The Blues hired Yeo to be their coach-in-waiting to work alongside Ken Hitchcock before the start of the 2016-17 season, but when Hitchcock was fired in the middle of the season Yeo was promoted a few months earlier than expected.

The Blues eliminated the Wild in the first-round of the playoffs this season but were defeated by the Nashville Predators in the second round.

For fourth time in five years Sergei Mozyakin is the KHL’s MVP

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The KHL handed out its awards for the 2016-17 season on Wednesday and it was Magnitogorsk Metallurg forward Sergei Mozyakin taking home the Golden Stick Trophy as the league MVP.

Given the season he had, and the career he has had in the KHL, this should not really be much of a surprise.

Mozyakin turned in one of the greatest performances in the history of the league this season by scoring 48 goals and recording 85 total points (both league records) in only 60 games.

Since the KHL formed in 2008-09 only three different players have won the Golden Stick award. Danis Zaripov won it during the inaugural season, while Alexander Radulov won it four times (three years in a row between 2009-10 and 2011-12, then again in 2014-15).

Mozyakin won it in 2012-13 and 2014-15, then in each of the past two seasons.

The 36-year-old forward was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the ninth-round (No. 262 overall) of the 2002 draft by never played a game in the NHL. He has spent his entire professional career playing in Russia where he has consistently been one of the best, most productive players in the league.

Among the KHL’s other award winners, Vasily Koshechkin was named the league’s top goalie, Oleg Znarok was the coach of the year, while Vladimir Tkachyov is the rookie of the year.

Mike Fisher could return for Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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One of the more impressive things about the Nashville Predators’ ability to eliminate the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals was the way they won the last two games of the series without the services of their top two centers, Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher.

They will still be without Johansen in the Stanley Cup Final as his postseason has come to an end, but they could get Fisher back when the series begins on Monday night.

General manager David Poile said on Wednesday that he is hopeful Fisher can participate in practice on Thursday and that there is “a real good chance” he will be ready to play in Game 1 of the series. The Predators will play the winner of Thursday’s Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. The Predators will open the series on the road no matter who they play.

Fisher suffered an apparent head injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final but was able to be on the ice to take part in the trophy celebration following Game 6.

The Predators’ captain has yet to record a point in 14 games this postseason, but did score 18 goals and add 24 assists in 72 games during the regular season.

In other injury news, Craig Smith, who also missed Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, has seen his health improve and could also be getting closer to a return. Smith has only played in four games for the Predators this postseason and has not played since Game 6 in the second-round against the St. Louis Blues.