Florida Panthers v Chicago Blackhawks

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.

Oilers recall D-man Oesterle from AHL Condors

EDMONTON, AB - FEBRUARY 23:  Jordan Oesterle #82 of the Edmonton Oilers warms up against the Ottawa Senators on February 23, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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The Edmonton Oilers made a move Sunday, recalling defenseman Jordan Oesterle from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.

In 18 games with the Condors this season, the 24-year-old Oesterle has three goals and 11 points.

The decision comes one day after Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson missed Saturday’s contest against the rival Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury.

While he isn’t a flashy player, Larsson seems to have made a positive impression on the Oilers coaching staff during his first season in Edmonton following last summer’s blockbuster trade involving scoring winger Taylor Hall.

No surprise this development is leading to questions about the health of Larsson, with the Oilers set to begin the second half of a six-game home stand and sitting second in the Pacific Division standings.

Video: Reaves and Boll drop the gloves in heavyweight bout

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Heavyweight fighters Jared Boll and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves during the second period of Sunday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.

Those were some thunderous right hands thrown there, both combatants landing their fair share of punches before officials finally intervened.

The Wild sit all alone in top spot of the Central Division

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The Minnesota Wild bested the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, and now sit in sole possession of first place in the Central Division.

Playing the second half of a back-to-back situation that involved travel from Dallas, where Minnesota won Saturday, the Wild fell behind Chicago courtesy two goals from Patrick Kane. Sure, the first goal on Devan Dubnyk was fluttered off the stick of Kane and under the arm of the Minnesota goalie.

But Dubnyk played the remainder of this pivotal game the way Wild fans have become accustomed to since he was acquired. He made 33 saves and was busiest in the second period. Outside of Kane’s second goal, Dubnyk was solid in the middle period and didn’t give up anything the rest of the way. The Wild came back for a 3-2 win. On the road. In hostile territory.

Minnesota, not far removed from a franchise-best 12-game winning streak, now sits at 61 points in 42 games, two points ahead of the Blackhawks and with four fewer games played.

Jason Pominville scored the winner early in the third period.

There are many reasons for the Wild’s success through the first half under coach Bruce Boudreau. Dubnyk’s play has been Vezina caliber. He has a .940 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average. Minnesota is second in the league when it comes to the lowest number of goals-against per game and only Washington is better in that category.

The Wild have been scoring plenty, too, fourth in the league with 3.19 goals-for per game, with contributions throughout their lineup.

Free agent signings can always be a risk — an expensive risk — but Eric Staal has rewarded the Wild by producing at just under a point per game rate. He could have his most productive season in several years — at the age of 32 and approaching 1,000 regular season games played.

They won’t have long to enjoy their view from the top.

The Wild host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday to begin a four-game home stand.

More bad news for Bolts: Callahan out four weeks with lower-body injury

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: Ryan Callahan #24 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Four of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Four points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and about to begin a six-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a tough task trying to climb the Eastern Conference standings.

There was more bad news for the Bolts on Sunday.

Forward Ryan Callahan, who hasn’t played since Jan. 7, will miss approximately four weeks because of a lower-body injury, the club announced.

Callahan made his season debut at the end of October. The start to his season was delayed due to the recovery from hip surgery he underwent to fix an issue from last season. Based on a report from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday, Callahan is once again dealing with a hip injury, although the club didn’t elaborate, announcing it as a lower-body injury.

In 18 games this season, Callahan has two goals and four points.

The Bolts, Stanley Cup contenders that have gone deep into the post-season in each of the last two campaigns, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Right now, Toronto, Ottawa and Florida all sit ahead of the Lightning in the battle for third in the Atlantic. Now into the second half of the season, they will have to quickly get out of this funk in order to close in the post-season race.

“The results are all that matters,” Brian Boyle told the Tampa Bay Times. “We need to change our attitude a little bit, kind of find our mojo, carry ourselves with a little bit more confidence. We can score quick goals. We can come from behind, jump out to leads and bury teams. We’ve done that in the past with this group.”

The Bolts begin this six-game road trip Monday against the L.A. Kings.