Feel that rising temperature? It’s the fever building inside of you.
Don’t squirm, and don’t fight it. Just embrace the free agency fever, kind of like how Jeff Carter embraced the fine city of Columbus. We’re now less than 48 hours away from the beginning of the madness, a madness that probably won’t be so mad after all, and gets incredibly depressing every time I look at the list of remaining available UFAs.
But we won’t talk about that. Instead, let’s talk about Tomas Vokoun, because even though he turns the ripe old age of 35 this Saturday, the soon-to-be former Panthers goalie is the most valuable commodity out there not named Brad Richards.
Similar to Richards, there was widespread speculation that Vokoun would be moved at the deadline along with the rest of Florida’s roster. That didn’t happen, and now at least one Colorado scribe thinks the most logical landing spot for Vokoun is with the local sports team in that city which happens to play hockey.
Stating the obvious never sounded more sensible.
With presumably little else to do now that Peter Forsberg is officially retired for good, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post listed the signs that could lead to Vokoun playing in the Mile High City next fall. Chief among them was this process of elimination:
Of the 30 NHL teams, 13 are already over the cap floor. Of those 13 teams, I can’t name a single one that doesn’t already have a strong starting goalie, who might be interested in a Vokoun. Of the other 16 teams (not including the Avs, and discounting the Panthers) there are only three that probably can be classified as ones with strong needs at the goalie position, who might bid against the Avs for Vokoun. I’d name those teams as Edmonton, Phoenix and Tampa Bay, with maybe Winnipeg as an outlier.
I don’t see Vokoun wanting to go to Edmonton for a lot of reasons, nor do I see Edmonton wanting Vokoun for a lot of reasons (salary being one, and another having Nikolai Khabibulin and his monstrous contract still on the books). Phoenix is a nice city, but they’re entering what looks to be another lame-duck type of season, with the ownership situation still a total mess and the threat of relocation still hanging heavy over the Coyotes.
Dater then pegs Tampa Bay as Colorado’s closest competition in the Vokoun sweepstakes. That’s a realistic possibility given Tampa’s cap space (roughly $21.8 million), but the lingering uncertainty of Steven Stamkos’ contract will likely hold Steve Yzerman back from pursuing other major deals immediately.
In addition to Stamkos, Yzerman is also contending with free agents Simon Gagne, Teddy Purcell, and Sean Bergenheim up front, and both of this year’s goalies–Mike Smith and Dwayne Roloson–also taking a cannonball into the UFA pool. Roloson is so old that he’s actually the son of father time, but although Vokoun is younger, he’s not exactly bringing an infusion of youth to the crease either. Tampa Bay came within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final this year on the strength of Roloson’s brilliance–albeit brilliance that faded somewhat–and Smith as a capable backup. Securing Stamkos while filling whatever voids remain offensively and maintaining the status quo in goal may be the wiser strategy for Yzerman.
The Jets, Dater’s outlier, are indeed a possibility with the $16 million they’re still required to spend to reach the cap floor. But “outlier” seems like the appropriate word since Winnipeg’s newest pride and joy has $3.1 million committed to Chris Mason and Ondrej Pavelec for next season, who formed a capable if unspectacular tandem this year with their combined 2.55 GAA. Vokoun’s expiring four-year contract came at a cap hit of $5.7 million.
In some eyes Mason and Pevelec may unfairly shoulder the blame for Atlanta’s 262 goals allowed, which was ahead of only Colorado. But that blame is more accurately pointed towards a defensive unit with only one player in positive plus/minus territory (Zach Bogosian was a particularly disgusting -27).
Vokoun’s contract talks with Florida throughout the season went nowhere, indicating a desire for a fresh start. Promising young forwards like Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, and Paul Stastny led a middle-tier offence last year (18th in scoring). But the true dead weight lied in goal, where Craig Anderson struggled and was then traded for the equally awful Brian Elliot.
Elliot is an RFA who wasn’t signed to an offer sheet, and Peter Budaj and his .895 save percentage over 45 games will begin drowning in that UFA pool on Friday.
So to review, we have a glaring need in Colorado to go along with $32.3 million in cap space, and youth to re-energize a goalie who hasn’t dipped below a .920 save percentage the last three years while playing in the league’s basement.
Yep, things are looking pretty, pretty good for Colorado and their Vokoun bid.
UPDATE: Looks like we’re close to putting any talking of Vokoun heading to Tampa bay to rest. Stevie Y is reportedly close to securing Roloson, signing the veteran to a one-year, $3 million contract.