A message to Florida Panthers GM Jacques Martin from a long-time follower of the team: Don’t trade Tomas Vokoun.
Not yet, anyway.
Yes, I realize Craig Anderson – who I’m a big fan of – is the best backup goalie in the NHL right now. I know his goals-against average is almost a full goal lower and his save percentage 31 points higher than Vokoun’s, but it makes no sense for the team to trade their higher-paid No. 1 at this point in time, despite calls from fellow THN blogger John Grigg to do just that.
All this trade talk surrounding Vokoun – a goalie who has been among the league’s elite since the turn of the century – just because he has started a little cold and his backup has been posing as the Messiah, is moving too fast when it’s simply unnecessary.
Marty Turco is off to the worst start of his career, but will the Stars move him? I don’t think so. Miikka Kiprusoff is known for his achingly slow starts to the season, but the Flames have yet to deal him off.
Given, those teams actually have expectations. Good ones. The only expectations surrounding the Panthers is to have a futile late-season surge just to take themselves out of the running for a top-five draft pick and aggravate fans further.
But I digress.
Vokoun is under contract for two more years after this one, with a cap hit of $5.7 million. As far as legitimate No. 1 goalies go, that’s par for the course. Sign Anderson, who’s an unrestricted free agent after this season and won’t make a wad of cash, and come up with a platoon system if he stays hot.
It’s the latest fad in the NHL and has been done throughout history. Detroit does it. Columbus does it. Chicago was forced into it. And Minnesota did it until they traded an aged Dwayne Roloson for a first-round pick in a non-saturated goalie market.
Take your time, Jacques. You can afford it.
Everyone knows unless the Panthers make a serious push, Jay Bouwmeester will be traded out of town before the team loses him for nothing to free agency this summer. The Panthers can use him to acquire whatever it is they’d stand to benefit from moving Vokoun and likely a little more.
Want a draft pick and a skater? Want to shave salary? Want a few picks and some more prospects to continue your perpetual rebuilding system? You can accomplish that with Bouwmeester.
The Panthers are in desperate need of a playoff appearance. Not only has the current economic crisis grabbed them by the neck already – making the value of a playoff purse that much greater – but they need to create a positive buzz in a non-traditional hockey market that has been the butt-end of jokes since ‘The Beezer’ was the buzz.
Florida sits only two points behind eighth-placed Buffalo. They also have a game in hand of division-leading Washington and are six points behind them. The division is a long shot and too much to hope for, but they are in the mix.
Trading Vokoun at this point in the season would be so Monty Burns-esque, the white flag raised would be large enough to block out the warm Miami sun. Anderson is playing great, but he’s still a career backup with only 31 games over two seasons as a Panther under his belt.
The smarter move is to sit on the tandem, give Anderson a shot to prolong his stellar play and if, over the next calendar year, he proves he can be a stand-alone No. 1, then consider moving Vokoun in a market that can’t be less friendly than the current one.
Time is on Florida’s side when it comes to deciding on their goalie situation. They have a legitimate star under contract, a game-stealing backup who comes relatively cheap and a young Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings, who will require at least two more years before he’s ready to step into the NHL lineup.
Moving in haste would only alienate the Panthers further from reality and be the latest in a long line of asset mismanagement.
Don’t be careless Jacques. Don’t listen to the knee-jerkers.
Don’t trade Vokoun, yet.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his feature, A Scout's Life, appears Thursdays.
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