Vokoun's Availability Doesn't Help Rangers


Written on 12/11/2009 by Jim Cerny

Chris Botta has himself a nice little scoop over at Fanhouse today.

Botta is reporting that the Florida Panthers have contacted teams about Tomas Vokoun's availability.

Add Vokoun's name to those of fellow netminders J.S. Giguere, Martin Biron, Jaroslav Halak, and, perhaps, Manny Legace and you have quite a group of experienced goaltenders available via trade.

Dealing Vokoun is easier said than done, what with his hefty contract extending past this season. And it's a huge risk for the Panthers because he has been their best player this season; and what would become of the Panthers without their most important player?

But as Botta points out, Florida has top prospect Jacob Markstrom at the ready beginning next season to assume duties in goal, so the Panthers may be willing to make a deal now during the season as other teams become desperate, as opposed to next summer. They would just have to bite the bullet on this season and see if Scott Clemmensen has any New Jersey magic in him left over from a year ago.

Vokoun's contract is a major stumbling block. Clearly the Panthers would have to take serious salary back in any deal for their No. 1 goalie. But how could the Flyers not be interested in Vokoun, especially with the inconsistent state of their goaltending this season and the current injury to starter Ray Emery?

What about Ottawa? They did swing a deal last spring to make Pascal LeClaire their No. 1, but surprise of all surprises, he is injured again.

Then there is Toronto. If Brian Burke believes his club's recent run the past two weeks is for real, does he consider such a big move? Vesa Toskala has been horrible and Jonas Gustavvson has had heart issues. Logic would say no deal for Toronto because Gustavvson is the goalie of the future, but yet with Burke, well, you never know.

I have chronicled Detroit's goaltending issues before here on Rink Rap. Vokoun would look quite nice in red and white, but no way the Red Wings could slip him in under the Cap, right? Right? Hmmmm......

Of course the playing field changes dramatically if another team---in particular, a serious Stanley Cup contender---loses their No. 1 goalie to injury. That would make Vokoun, arguably, the hottest commodity on the NHL market.

As for backup goaltenders, the question on Broadway is: will Henrik Lundqvist play every game the rest of the season now that his backup, Steve Valiquette, has shockingly flamed out and been sent to the minors?

Well maybe that is not exactly the question, but it is close. The Rangers are right up against the salary cap ceiling and really can't afford to add a Halak or Biron---the most affordable options out there---as Lundqvist's caddy. So right now rookies Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba are alternating playing in Hartford for the club's AHL afffiliate, practicing with the Rangers, and backing up Lundqvist on game day. Not exactly the ideal situation.

"It's a mess," Rangers coach John Tortorella said this morning of the goaltending situation behind Lundqvist. "Let's call it what it is. It's a mess."

Tortorella shared that the plan was for the veteran Valiquette, who earns a Cap-friendly $750,000 this season, to make 15-17 starts this season, "especially with Hank set to play in the Olympics."

Now Torts has no idea when, or how, he can give Lundqvist any nights off, in particular because the team is struggling so mightily right now and needs his play to either steal them some victories or keep them in games. At some point, Tortorella explained, Johnson---a rookie who played at Alaska-Fairbanks last season, and who is considered a decent NHL prospect---will be forced to make a start.

"We sent a veteran backup down and he's still struggling down there, and we don't even know what we have in Johnson," explained Tortorella. "I'm not trying to paint a lousy picture, but that's the picture it is."


By the way, check out the Rangers Radio page at newyorkrangers.com for an interview Steve Gelbs and I conducted with John Halligan, author of "100 Rangers Greats", this week. Halligan, a long-time Rangers employee, is a true historian of all things Rangers, and our conversation is a lot of fun, and sprinkled with many Rangers anecdotes and memories. Not to mention we have some fun debates! For example how can Mike Gartner, perhaps one of the top two or three snipers in franchise history be ranked No. 67? Fun stuff, so go check it out.

Also, for you folk up in Canada, I am a guest this week on The Fourth Period Radio Show. Dan Kingerski and I will be debating topics such as the return of the NHL to Quebec City, who will be the next coach fired in the NHL, and will Wayne Gretzky coach Canada at the World Championships.

If you are not north of the border, http://www.thefourthperiod.com/ should have the show on its site beginning on Saturday.

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1 Comment

  1. Brandon |

    Interesting take. RedWings need a new goalie to help out and fast. If the Rangers keep losing they won't have the time to sit Lundqvist at all. There really is no solution except sticking with the current mess or maybe a three team deal? Anyone willing to take on a Rangers bloated contract? I wouldn't think so.

    Funny, I go to church with Chris Botta lol


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