Preds' Vokoun signs four-year, $22.8 million extension

Updated: September 11, 2006, 5:11 PM ET news services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators made sure goaltender Tomas Vokoun knows exactly how much they appreciate him.

A franchise that lost in the opening round of the playoffs last spring with Vokoun out because of blood clots announced Monday they have signed the 30-year-old goalie to a four-year extension and given him the franchise's richest contract ever at $22.8 million.

Nashville Predators

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"I'm happy to be staying," Vokoun, the last remaining player from the team's 1998 expansion draft class, told The Tennessean of Nashville, which first reported the signing. "I really like the Nashville organization and Nashville has always been very good for me and my family. I'm excited about the future."

"Our expectations, our goals are very high," general manager David Poile said. "It starts in goal. If you don't have a good goaltender, you're not going to go anywhere. Certainly with Tomas, we've got a chance to win every game and every playoff game."

Vokoun, who turned 30 in July, is 91-69-26 since taking over as the Predators' starting goalie in December 2002. He said he decided to stay in Nashville because he wants to win games with a franchise that added center Jason Arnott this offseason.

"I think I'm in a place where I have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup," Vokoun said.

Vokoun ranks third in the NHL with 203 games played and 95 wins over the past three seasons. He was fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy last season after winning a career-high 36 games despite missing the final 13 games, including five in the playoffs.

His extension keeps him under contract for the next five seasons, and he will earn $5.3 million in 2007-08, $5.5 million in 2008-09, $5.7 million in 2009-10 and $6.3 million in 2010-11.

Poile had started talking to Vokoun about a possible extension before he became ill at the beginning of April. Vokoun took blood thinners for three months, then was cleared by doctors at the Mayo Clinic on July 24.

"We'd said that we'd look into [a new contract] once we got the health issues resolved," Vokoun told The Tennessean. "We wanted to get it done before the start of the season. With all the changes on the team, I'm just happy to be staying."

"That kind of kept me a little in the dark," Vokoun said. "I wasn't sure if we would be able to be talking about my contract."

Negotiations resumed, and they reached a deal Friday.

"They took care of me as a person, too, when I needed them most when I was sick. I'm really happy I'm staying here," Vokoun said.

Vokoun was one of five goalies picked by the Predators in their 1998 expansion draft, though Nashville tried to make Mike Dunham its starter. Dunham struggled to stay in the lineup with injuries, clearing the way for Vokoun.

Now the goalie from the Czech Republic is the lone player left from the team's expansion draft. He has a 2.57 goals-against average in 340 career NHL games, played in the 2004 All-Star game and led the Czechs to a gold medal at the 2005 Worlds and a bronze at the Olympics in February.

Coach Barry Trotz, who helped alert Poile to Vokoun in the expansion draft while the goalie was in Montreal's farm system, called the contract a big statement both by the team and Vokoun in staying with the Predators.

"He might well be the first Predator that ends up with his jersey in the rafters because he is a top player in this league," Trotz said. "He's definitely going to have the most wins of any goaltender in our history. It'll be tough to beat for anybody."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.