The National Hockey League trade deadline is more that a few weeks away and the chatter once again has picked up.
While there are many rumors swirling around, some players just can't seem to dodge the NHL rumor mills.
Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun is one such player who always seems to be rumored "in play" this time of year.
Season after season, the Panthers netminder is a rumor mill favorite.
With the belief that you can't win the Stanley Cup without solid goaltending, there is always a case to be made that a goaltender like Tomas Vokoun could be the final piece a team needs in the chase of Lord Stanley's mug. He could also provide a strong foundation, even at 35 years of age.
While Vokoun is in the last year of his contract that pays the Panthers goalie $6.3 Million, his pending UFA status might suggest that the Panthers have two options, either re-sign Vokoun or trade him on of before the NHL trade deadline, February 28th at 3pm eastern time.
Let's remember that Vokoun has a no movement clause. Different from a no trade, the no movement clause will allow Vokoun to accept or veto any deal.
While there are many that believe Panthers general manager Dale Tallon will do what he can to re-sign Vokoun, the possibility exists that Vokoun could be dealt. His value right now could be high enough to deal him and get roster position players in return that would go towards the Panthers re-building mentality.
Tallon is in the midst of his first season re-building the Panthers, are currently seven points out of a play-off spot in the Eastern Conference, currently being held by division rival Atlanta. The Panthers need to leap-frog Buffalo and Carolina before even attempting to challenge for the eight spot.
Teams around the NHL are expecting the Panthers GM Tallon will begin to move out players between now and the trade deadline in hopes of reaping whatever dividends he can acquire.
When it comes to their own potential UFA's, the Panthers are hoping to change past mistakes.
The Panthers have allowed former players, like the most recent, Jay Bouwmeester to walk come July 1st free agency with no compensation in return.
The Panthers, as an organization, can't afford that trend to continue. They simply don't have enough in their depth chart to replace players like Bowmeester and others that have left the Panthers. One could argue that these situations (losing free agents for nothing) has taken it's effect on this franchise and has added to it's current state.
This season the Panthers have seven UFA's to deal with along with Vokoun. Bryan McCabe, Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak, Chris Higgins, Marty Reasoner and Darcy Hordichuk are all scheduled to be free agents.
Michael Deutsch, Vokoun's New York based agent will no doubt be all ears of any potential offers from the Panthers or any other situation that may present itself over the next few weeks leading to the trade deadline.
There is also a notion that Vokoun could be re-sign by the Panthers in part of a bid to deal him allowing the team who acquires Vokoun to have the assurance that he will not leave on July 1st to sign elsewhere.
The fact remains that Vokoun could very well be dealt in favor of Panthers young goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom, currently tending goal in Rochester (AHL).
Most hockey insiders believe that Markstrom is a season or more away from being in the Panthers fold. It will be an assessment of his development that will likely determine what, if any offer the Vokoun camp will receive from the Panthers.
Should things not work in South Florida, lets' take a look at some potential new homes for Tomas Vokoun.