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Penguins land Vokoun, who should help lighten Fleury's workload

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun defends against the Penguins' Richard Park during a game at Consol Energy Center on Oct. 13, 2011.

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Tomas Vokoun

Age: 35

NHL seasons: 14

Career record: 287-284-35-43

Previous NHL teams: Montreal, Nashville, Florida, Washington

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Monday, June 4, 2012, 12:06 p.m.
 

A potentially busy offseason for the Penguins began with general manager Ray Shero making a move to bolster a weakness.

The Penguins acquired goalie Tomas Vokoun to replace Brent Johnson as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup.

A starter for the majority of his 14-year NHL career, Vokoun comes at the price of a seventh-round draft pick to the Washington Capitals. The Penguins acquired Vokoun's rights — he was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 — and signed him to a two-year, $4 million contract.

The Penguins have $7 million tied into the goaltender position for the next two seasons, but Shero was intent on providing Fleury with someone who's more than simply a capable backup.

“He's a good goalie and a good person,” Shero said. “He will make Marc-Andre better.”

Shero and Vokoun were quick to diffuse any talk that a goaltender controversy is lurking. Fleury remains the Penguins' unquestioned No. 1 goalie.

But don't expect Fleury to to appear in 69 games next season — he set a career-high with that figure this past season. Many in the organization believe Fleury's heavy workload was responsible for his subpar play in the Stanley Cup playoffs against Philadelphia.

“The goalie position has changed,” Shero said. “You need a good tandem now, and I think that's what we have. For Marc to play 69 games, well, that was a lot of games. He never admitted to being tired last season, and he likes to play a lot. But this will make him a better goalie.

“This isn't a knock on Marc-Andre Fleury. This is to make Marc-Andre Fleury better.”

Vokoun doesn't have any intention on snatching the starting goalie job from Fleury. He simply wants to win a title.

“I'm not coming to Pittsburgh to be a No. 1 or a No. 2,” Vokoun said. “I'll play when they tell me to play. I just want to win.”

After being informed by the Capitals that he wouldn't be re-signed, Vokoun received permission to find a trade partner before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Agent Allan Walsh, who also represents Fleury, quickly negotiated a deal with the Penguins. The talks began last Thursday.

“It was important for me to go to a team where I would feel wanted, to go to a good team,” Vokoun said. “It just felt like a good fit for me to be in Pittsburgh.”

Vokoun played in Nashville earlier in his career while Shero was the Predators assistant general manager. That relationship played a role in the deal getting done.

“I always want to bring in good people,” Shero said. “And I wanted to bring in a good goalie. We're getting all of that with Tomas.”

Vokoun missed a large portion of last season with a groin injury. He said he's now 100 percent healthy.

“I feel great,” he said. “I can't wait to get to Pittsburgh and meet my new teammates and get started.”

Shero acknowledged there's speculation the salary cap for next season will settle around $70 million, which would give the Penguins more room than expected to operate. They currently are locked into about $61 million worth of salary for next season.

Shero said no decision has been made regarding unrestricted free-agent forwards Arron Asham and Steve Sullivan.

“We'll address those guys soon,” he said. “We aren't to that point yet.”

Shero confirmed to Trib Total Media in December that signing Sidney Crosby to a new contract is the team's top priority this summer.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.comor 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.

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