My esteemed colleague – Rory Boylen – is a conservative sort. No he doesn’t wear sport coats and vote right wing, but he believes now is not the time for the Florida Panthers to trade Tomas Vokoun.
I respectfully disagree. Here are three reasons why:
First, Florida isn't built to win this year or in the next two years - the time remaining on Vokoun’s contract. The Panthers are in a rebuilding mode (when are they not?). They had to trade Olli Jokinen over the summer and Jay Bouwmeester is likely next. So why pin your hopes on a goalie making $5.7 million per season through 2010-11?
The core group - as it is - is not capable of winning soon, but maybe down the line. Up front, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss have disappointed to this point in their careers, but have proven serviceable; Florida has banked on Rostislav Olesz becoming more than serviceable and signed him through 2013-14; David Booth, Michael Frolik and Shawn Matthias are up-and-comers already in the NHL whose destinies the team controls for years to come.
On the blueline, Bryan Allen will be around through 2011-12 and Keith Ballard longer than that, while Keaton Ellerby (10th overall in 2007) and Colby Robak (46th overall in 2008) are developing.
That’s not the best talent in the league, but it’s talent.
Second, like other No. 2 goalies around the league, Craig Anderson is showing he can play. He's third in goals-against average, first in save percentage and he's out-playing Vokoun right now. I’m not saying Anderson is the long-term answer in goal, - that’s more likely Jacob Markstrom (31st overall in 2008) - I’m just saying Vokoun isn’t going to be around in two or three years, anyway, so get what you can for him now, while the getting is good and the team has another goalie it can ride.
Third, and most importantly, Florida needs to act sooner rather than later if it wants to maximize Vokoun's value. There are other goalies likely available and becoming more attractive cap-wise as the season continues – Nikolai Khabibulin, Manny Fernandez, Dwayne Roloson, Vesa Toskala, etc.
But none are in Vokoun's class. He's a top-10 goalie having a down season on a bad team. Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged 31 wins, a 2.60 GAA, .919 save percentage and four shutouts. No goalie averaging 50-plus games played over that period has a better save percentage than Vokoun. To put it simply, he’s good and a number of teams will likely fall all over themselves for a shot at acquiring him.
The Panthers have little to play for over the next few years. Their future is not now and once other goalies begin to be traded, Vokoun loses value as an asset. So as Denis Lemieux might say, “Trade heem right #$@*~!& now!”
John Grigg is a copy editor with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his blog and the Top 10.
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