The story of how elite goaltender Tomas Vokoun was signed by the Capitals to a one-year deal at the astoundingly low price of $1.5 million is about timing (bad for Vokoun) and dumb luck (good for Washington).

Vokoun was without a team when he offered himself and his bargain-basement price to the Capitals after other teams looking for goalies in the free-agent market made their signings.

Those teams include the Lightning, which July 1, the day free agency opened, inquired about Vokoun, who with a 2.55 goals-against average and .922 save percentage was one of the few reasons the sad-sack Panthers were competitive last season.

With those numbers, Vokoun's price must have been high, certainly more than the $3 million Tampa Bay spent on its one-year deal with Dwayne Roloson.

But a funny thing happened. The goalie market dried up.

Credit an already tight market squeezed more after the Flyers, before free agency began, signed Ilya Bryzgalov for nine years and $51 million, the kind of deal Vokoun would have liked.

Then the Coyotes lured Mike Smith away from Tampa Bay with a two-year, $4 million deal. The Avalanche traded for Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, and the Panthers, knowing they would lose Vokoun, signed Jose Theodore for two years, $3 million. And just like that, teams were set in net.

That is when Vokoun, 35, approached Capitals general manager George McPhee, who after dealing Varlamov was ready to play next season with Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.