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Tomas Vokoun’s agent: “looks like he’ll hit the open market”

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The news that has been expected for months is a little closer to coming to fruition on Saturday when Tomas Vokoun’s agent hinted that his client will explore his free agent options this summer. Vokoun has been carrying a $5.7 million cap hit over the last four seasons, including an actual salary of $6.3 million this season. There have been repeated rumors that the Panthers would try to trade the talented Czech goaltender last summer or at the deadline; but two weeks before free agency opens the organization is still negotiating an extension.

Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon and Vokoun’s agent Michael Deutsch spoke with ESPN.com regarding the negotiations:

“At this point it looks like he’ll hit the open market on July 1,” Vokoun’s agent, Michael C. Deutsch, told ESPN.com on Saturday. “He’s keeping all his options open, including going back to Florida.”

Panthers GM Dale Tallon didn’t rule out any possibilities with the goaltender, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

“We’ll see. It depends what happens between now and July 1. We’re not done yet,” Tallon told ESPN.com on Saturday. “There’s still lots of time. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen.”

Ever since he worked his way up through the Nashville Predators organization, Tomas Vokoun has shown to be a world-class netminder. He had an impressive 27-12-4 record with a .920 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average. His stellar play with the Predators priced himself right out of the Nashville market. He ended up signing a 4-year deal worth almost $23 million. As one of the best goaltenders on the market this season, he’ll be looking for another deal that gets into the $5 million plus range.

Earlier this week, there was a report out of the Czech Republic that he was headed to the Colorado Avalanche this summer. Predictably, the report has already been shot down by Vokoun’s agent. Besides, we know an opposing general manager would never think of tampering with a potential unrestricted free agent, right?

It doesn’t matter whether the story out of the Czech Republic is true or not—teams will be interested in Tomas Vokoun. Any team in the market for a true #1 goaltender will have Deutsch’s number on speed-dial for July 1st. Aside from Ilya Bryzgalov, there isn’t a better goaltender available this season. In fact, some people will tell you he’s a better option than Bryzgalov. He’s been a world class goaltender since the lockout, yet continually is overlooked when people discuss great goaltenders. Fans are given a fairly healthy reminder when he plays well for the Czech National team in the Olympics or World Championships, but he’s rarely given his due throughout the regular season.

I wonder if that has anything to do with playing in Nashville and Florida. If he were putting up these numbers in Montreal or Philadelphia, everyone would be waiting on the edge of their seats to see where he signs this offseason. I’m willing to bet there are some GMs in Colorado, Phoenix, and Florida who will be on the edge of their seats anyway.

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.

 

Ex-‘Hawks coach Suhonen takes Austrian national team job

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Thomas Raffl #5 of Austria celebrates with his teammates after Thomas Hundertpfund #27 scored a goal in the first period against Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.

Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.

Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.

Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.

Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.

That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.

Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. Detroit won 5-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.

But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.

And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.

Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.

Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’