The Madrid Royals and defensive-minded coach Dan Bylsma have a new best defensive asset thanks to a trade with Athens, giving up Michal Neuvirth, Nick Johnson and a first round draft pick to get it. Madrid acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun, a 35-year-old earning $1.5 million this year, the final year of his contract. The Royals had been going with 34-year-old Martin Biron and 23-year-old Michal Neuvirth in goal. Biron played most of Madrid’s games (17) and had a save percentage of just under 88 percent and was 25th in the league in goals against average. Neuvirth had a slightly better save percentage and a 2.59 goals against average that placed him fifth in the EURO League, but he probably doesn’t have the stamina to play in a starting role, having played in only 8 games for the Royals. Vokoun has appeared in 20 games for the Greeks and has a 3.33 goals against with a save percentage of 89.6. But what’s better for the Royals is that league scouts have him at an 85 OV rating, which makes him the most talent-laden player on the Madrid roster right now. Madrid hasn’t had much trouble putting the puck in the opponents’ nets so far this season, with their 4.04 goals per game average placing them fifth in the league in that column. Bylsma and general manager rjlavoie are hoping Vokoun will help lift the defensive end. A key statistic that hints this move could pay off in the short team for Madrid is that their team defense has been among the best in the league so far. Only three teams have allowed fewer shots on goal per game than the Royals have, but their goals against average is in the bottom half. That indicates goaltending might have been the problem. They are hoping Vokoun is good enough to change their fortunes. The Royals want to lock down a playoff position even though there are nearly 60 games to be played this season.
Athens, on the other hand, is flirting with the first overall pick in the next draft. GM Sports Monkey, Terry Poet, opted to release this year’s backstop – Vokoun – and pick up three pieces of future seasons’ puzzles. Neuvirth brings his 2-year $1.15 million Type 2 contract along with Johnson, who is dirt cheap at $550,000 and who played a bit part in Madrid, getting 1 assist in 9 games of fourth-line duty. He also played for Bern for one game, getting an assist in that game before being waived and picked up by Madrid. The swing piece in the trade will be the first round pick Madrid gave up. If the season ended today, it would be the 16th pick in the draft.
Athens has made two trades since the season began and in the process have accumulated 3 first round draft picks, $5 million in cash, and four players – Neuvirth, Johnson, Scott Hartnell and Tim Gleason for Vokoun, Evander Kane and Alexander Sulzer. They also made two trades on draft day, trading two picks for two later picks and Matt Cullen, who has been a bust so far with 1 goal and 9 assists in 24 games to go with a team worse plus-minus rating of minus 14.
Madrid had not made a trade since draft day when they made three, including a big one involving number one overall pick Gabriel Landeskog. That day, they traded three recent selections – Dustin Brown, Max Pacioretty and Sami Pahlsson – for several picks and Landeskog.