It wasn’t long ago that goaltender Tomas Vokoun figured that 2013-14 would almost certainly be his last season. He’s hoping that isn’t the case.
Vokoun has informed agent Allan Walsh that he’s completely committed to playing in the NHL next season.
He’ll turn 38 in July and didn’t play in the NHL in 2013-14 due to a blood-clot issue, but he did get two AHL contests under his belt before the season ended.
The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t likely to re-sign him as they’ve already inked goalie Jeff Zatkoff to a one-way, two-year deal to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury’s understudy. Still, Vokoun was a great netminder for many years before he ran into health problems this season and he’s likely to attract some interest on the market as a potential backup goaltender.
Vokoun would bring 300 wins and 700 games worth of NHL experience with him.
In fact, things were ugly enough that the Penguins’ living legend/partial owner/guy who received statue treatment Mario Lemieux felt the need to visit the team’s locker room to console the struggling netminder.
Mario Lemieux entered the locker room to offer Marc-Andre Fleury encouragement after the game. Good owner.
Without proper context in what was said to the 29-year-old goalie, it feels sort of like a netminder’s answer to a GM giving a coach a “vote of confidence.” Still, it’s a nice gesture from Lemieux.
Here are the two goals in which Fleury seemed to unravel:
As you may remember, Fleury struggled enough to find himself on the bench during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, but Tomas Vokoun isn’t (currently?) available to try to save the day. In case you’re curious, here’s a quick comparison between the regular season numbers Fleury and his 26-year-old, little-known backup Jeff Zatkoff generated in 2013-14:
Fleury: 39-18-5 with 2.37 GAA and .915 save percentage in 64 games played
Zatkoff: 12-6-2 with 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage in 20 GP
Zatkoff isn’t very experienced, so maybe Lemieux really was going out of his way of saying “Don’t read anything on the Internet, because you’re our guy.” But we can only speculate.
Let’s assume Lemieux was looking a little more dapper, like he was during the Penguins’ championship run quite a while ago:
Pittsburgh has recalled goalie Tomas Vokoun from his two-game conditioning assignment in AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the club announced on Monday.
Vokoun, 37, missed the entire regular season after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his pelvis during training camp. He’d previously experienced blood clotting issues in his career — missing significant time while a member of the Nashville Predators — and underwent a lengthy rehab to correct the issue this season.
While he was out, the Pens turned to Jeff Zatkoff to fill the backup void, and he did reasonably well — 12-6-2 record, 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage. But Zatkoff, who’s never played a postseason game, lacks the big-game experience and veteran presence Vokoun brings. When No. 1 netminder Marc-Andre Fleury stumbled during last year’s playoffs, Vokoun stepped in and provided Pittsburgh with some solid play, going 6-5 with a 2.01 GAA and .933 save percentage.
As such, it’ll be interesting to see what Pittsburgh does with Vokoun now that he’s back from WBS. He went 1-1-0 over the weekend with the Baby Pens, posting a 2.41 GAA and .891 save percentage.
Tomas Vokoun is in the AHL on a conditioning stint as he tries to return from a blood-clot issue. Jeff Zatkoff established himself as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ backup in his absence, but if he’s healthy, Vokoun would be a nice insurance policy given his success in the 2013 playoffs and his overall experience.
Whatever role the Penguins have in mind for him, Vokoun is open to it. But it doesn’t sound like this is a step towards a 2014-15 comeback campaign.
“When (I talked to the Penguins’ coaches) back in January, I told them I’m open-minded,” the 37-year-old goaltender said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Regardless of what happened, I was 90 percent sure it was going to be my last season anyway.”
If this is the end, he’ll hang up his skates with 300 wins in 700 games. He was one of the NHL’s top goaltenders during his prime, but he didn’t get many opportunities to win the Cup while playing primarily for Nashville and Florida. Of course, nothing has been decided this season. He still might retire a champion.