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.