Tomas Vokoun, who’s an unrestricted free agent, is facing a huge uncertainty as far as his NHL career is concerned, as well as his return to Pittsburgh.
Sidelined the entire 2013-14 campaign due to a blood clot that developed in his pelvis back in September, Vokoun was able to string together a couple of starts down in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but ran out of time to perform for the Penguins.
Pens’ fans remember Vokoun from their postseason run in ’13, when he replaced the struggling Marc-Andre Fleury following Game 4 of the first-round, and started every contest from thereon out. Standing tall and keeping Pittsburgh in each tilt, Vokoun came through in the clutch, and was expecting to have another go with the Pens.
Now, because the team is short on cash, re-signing Vokoun may be out of the question, especially since Jeff Zatkoff is on board for two more seasons. Although Pittsburgh will have two goalies on their roster, we shouldn’t count out a possible return for Vokoun.
Because Vokoun didn’t play a single NHL game this past season, he may be cheap to re-sign. However, only thing is, is that Pittsburgh has little dough, and looking at major holes on both defense and offense. So, Vokoun – if he doesn’t retire – could be donning a different sweater come September.
A blood clot can be considered life-threatening for the average person, much less play hockey again; however, Vokoun showed true adversity, and did everything he could to rejoin his teammates in the pros. But given Vokoun will be 38 this summer, the question of whether he will hang up the skates must be factoring into his decision-making.
Back in February, when Vokoun practiced in full for the first time all season, the veteran netminder let it be known that, “It’d be nice not to finish my career in the stands watching, finish as a player.” Well, unfortunately for Vokoun, he never saw game-action, and who knows if any team is willing to give Vokoun a contract – given his circumstances.
Which means, to me, that the only way Vokoun would see any starts next season is playing in Pittsburgh, because of the familiarity.
The Pens know how Vokoun can aid a club, and there’s no denying his impact once inserted, but it’s a matter of dollars for Pittsburgh. That, and the Pens have a number of prospect goaltenders waiting to contribute to the team. So, there’s no telling where Vokoun actually stands.
Due to the fact Pittsburgh fired general manager Ray Shero, his successor may opt not to reel back Vokoun because of cap matters. And if the ageless netminder doesn’t roster on the team next season, it’s a bittersweet departure for an exceptional player.
My guess is he won’t be back, but I sincerely hope he receives a shot somewhere else at least. I’ll always have the utmost respect for Vokoun.