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.

Zibanejad looking for $5.35 million from Rangers in arbitration

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The New York Rangers and restricted free agent forward Mika Zibanejad are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Tuesday if they can not come to an agreement on a new contract before them.

On Sunday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the numbers both sides are looking at heading into that hearing and they don’t seem to be too far apart. According to Friedman, Zibanejad is seeking a $5.35 million salary while the Rangers have countered with an offer of $4.1 million. If the two sides were able to meet in the middle that would be in the neighborhood of around $4.7 million per season, which probably seems about right given Zibanejad’s performance and some of the contracts that have recently been signed by the likes of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat (both will make a little more than $5 million per season, while both have been more productive).

Zibanejad, 24, is coming off of his first season with the Rangers after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Derrick Brassard trade.

He was limited to just 56 games due to injury, scoring 14 goals to go with 23 assists. He scored at least 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons.

With Derek Stepan gone to Arizona Zibanejad figures to take on a bigger role this season for the Rangers.

The Rangers still have $8.4 million in salary cap space to work with, via CapFriendly.

New addition Thompson thinks Senators are ‘ready to win’

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Even after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 there is still probably some skepticism as to how good the Ottawa Senators will be this upcoming season and whether or not they can repeat that success.

They didn’t do much to add to that roster over the summer outside of the addition of gritty forward Nate Thompson on a two-year contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

Thompson is excited about the opportunity to join the Senators and believes the success of the team last season was not a fluke.

“This team now is ready to win,” he told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun this past week. “I don’t think this was a Cinderella team, it was the real deal. They have a pretty good window to win games and hopefully do something even more special.”

It’s going to probably be a little more difficult this season given some of the improvements that have been made by teams around them (Tampa Bay and Toronto should be better than they were a year ago; Montreal and Boston will still be fierce contenders as well) and the fact the Senators themselves might see a bit of a regression in the standings if their overall play doesn’t change much. Keep in mind, for all of the success they had in the playoffs this was still a team that gave up more goals than it scored during the regular season. That is not typically a recipe for long-term success.

Thompson, who will turn 33 at the start of the season, will be relied on primarily to fill a bottom-six role and perhaps help in the faceoff circle. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season in Anaheim that saw him be limited to just 30 games, scoring one goal and adding one assist before recording six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs for the Ducks on their run to the Western Conference Finals. He spent the past three seasons playing for the Ducks and also has experience playing for Senators coach Guy Boucher during their time together in Tampa Bay.

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley