You can't accuse the Capitals of sticking with the status quo. Saturday's bombshell that goalie Tomas Vokoun had signed for just $1.5 million completes a roster overhaul that began in May. Out are last season's trade rentals -- defenseman Scott Hannan, center Jason Arnott and winger Marco Sturm -- and mainstay forwards Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley.
In are forwards Jeff Halpern -- the new fourth-line center and former team captain -- and Joel Ward as free agent signings. Troy Brouwer was acquired in a draft-day trade, though as a restricted free agent he still needs to be signed. Mattias Sjogren, a 23-year-old from the Swedish Elite League, suddenly finds himself trying to crack a veteran lineup. But he, too, represents that new way forward -- a two-way presence, yes, but in reality someone who is just hard to play against. Washington needed more speed among its bottom six forwards and an added element of ... let's politely call it feistiness or grit. Not that Gordon or Bradley didn't provide some. But the Caps needed more. If they could do that and still upgrade offensively, then all the better.
Vokoun, 35, finished ninth in save percentage last season (.922). No other NHL goalie has a better save percentage (.922) since the lockout. To get a player of that caliber for so little money left even Caps general manager George McPhee stunned.
"We thought we were done a couple of days ago," McPhee admitted Sunday. "This was a significant move that we were not anticipating."
Washington was prepared to go with young goalies Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. But when the market collapsed, Vokoun's agents called McPhee and asked whether Washington was interested. Not really. Love the player -- Caps pro scouts had him ranked among the game's 10 best -- but probably can't afford the asking price. What he didn't count on was that Vokoun told his representatives about his desire to play in Washington. The chance for a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup was important, too, after a career spent with nonplayoff clubs. With the goalie willing to meet their price -- leaving better offers on the table -- the Caps jumped.