Shortly after the 2006-07 season ended in another first-round playoff exit for the Tampa Bay Lightning, I began receiving calls from Predators GM David Poile offering to solve our goaltending problem by trading Tomas Vokoun to us.
Poile had been told to slash payroll and was looking to move high-dollar contracts. He suggested that our cross-state rival, the Florida Panthers, might also be in the hunt for a No. 1 goalie and if we didn’t make the move we could find ourselves facing Vokoun six or eight times a year in our division.
While we had goaltending problems in Tampa at the time, we were not interested in Vokoun. Our pro scouts were not sold on Vokoun’s ability to win a championship and thrive under big-game pressure and his contract was too rich for us, both in real dollars and available cap space.
Vokoun was traded to the Panthers on June 22, 2007 and has been the top netminder there for the past three seasons, including the current campaign. He has yet to carry his team to the post-season and last year, when new coach Pete DeBoer really needed him to elevate his play, he faltered, stumbling badly enough that DeBoer handed the starting reins to backup Craig Anderson down the stretch.
Anderson signed with Colorado this past summer and is leading a resurgent Avalanche team. The Panthers countered by signing former Devils No. 3 goalie, Scott Clemmensen. Just as Anderson carried the Panthers last season, Clemmensen was the go-to goalie for the Devils when Martin Brodeur missed most of the season with an injury and the putative No. 2, Kevin Weekes, once again failed to live up to expectations. Clemmensen saved the day in Jersey and Florida did well to land him after losing Anderson.
Unfortunately, Clemmensen has been away from the team dealing with personal/family matters recently, which has resulted in Vokoun carrying the load. Not surprisingly, Vokoun has faltered and the Panthers find themselves desperately needing help from their backup goalie yet again. The only way for Florida to climb back into the hunt is for Clemmensen to do for his current squad what he did last year in Newark, and time is of the essence.
Imagine how history might have changed had we agreed to the deal with Nashville. The Panthers gave up a second round pick in 2007, plus a first- and second-rounder in 2008 for Vokoun. Had we done that deal, that first round pick in 2008 could have been our overall first pick and Steven Stamkos might now be skating in Nashville!
Some of the best trades remain the ones you never make.
Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on THN.com throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.