Tomas Vokoun of the Pittsburgh Penguins is expected to miss 3-to-6 months after surgery to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvic region, according to the team.
For Vokoun, the focus is on getting healthy and dealing with an ailment that’s plagued him during his career in rather frightening ways. The Penguins, however, have to deal with the reality that Vokoun won’t be available until 2014 and there’s no telling how much of the season he’ll miss.
And deal with the fact that they have a Marc-Andre Fleury problem.
Yes, he’s a more dependable goalie in the regular season, and frankly isn’t the goalie that imploded in the previous two postseasons. But Vokoun was more than an insurance policy on Fleury: He was a viable alternative starter if the Penguins weren’t getting what they needed from M.A.F.
According to GM Ray Shero, the alternative is … Jeff Zatkoff, a 26-year-old AHLer who will be given the chance to back up Fleury.
From the Pens:
“I want to go with the goaltending we have here and see how we do,” Shero said. “Like anything, you’ll evaluate as you go. Since Tomas has been out I know who every available free agent goalie is because I’ve gotten calls from their agents and other teams.
“Right now I want to go with this and see how we do. I want to give Jeff the opportunity, which I think he’s deserved.”
He played 49 games for the Baby Penguins last season, posting a 1.93 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Not too shabby.
But also not a reason for Fleury to worry, and that was always the point in the Penguins acquiring Vokoun: To have Fleury with one eye on the puck and other looking over his shoulder. That’s not going to happen with Zatkoff.
The Penguins will get cap relief when they put Vokoun on LTIR after 10 games. That could enable them to find a veteran UFA or someone sitting on the pine for another team to come in and give Fleury a veteran nudge. But as it stands, the loss of Vokoun means the loss of a goalie that can motivate Fleury and, as we saw last postseason, ably replace him.