Is there a chance the Panthers will trade their #1 goalie
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.
What are the chances of Jimmy Howard ending up in South Florida at the trade deadline?
Argue all you want Wings fans.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland tipped his hat a little early this season by trying his best to secure the services of Evgeni Nabokov only to have the New York Islanders claim the goalie on re-entry waivers.
While I like the re-entry rules, I'll leave that for another day.
The facts are that Holland wanted to add a veteran experienced goaltender. He also has next to no salary space on the Wings cap, so for a modest half million dollars, Nabokov would have been an ideal signing.
The Red Wings will have issues of their own this off-season as Chris Osgood, Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald are all UFA.
Jordan Pearce will be an RFA coming off an entry level deal. That leaves Thomas McCollum as the only goalie under contract to the Wings next season.
While the salary structure is hard to work around, Red Wings executives could make a play for Vokoun either now or at the deadline. This would give the Wings a head start on possible contract talks while shoring up the goaltending for the play-off run.
Either way it might be a rental situation that the Wings go with as they move forward towards the Stanley Cup play-offs, but Vokoun seems to fit into the Detroit model. He is an older experienced goalie who will provide solid regular season numbers.
The reality that the Panthers have not been to the play-offs during Vokoun's tenure is not entirely because of his play. One could argue that Vokoun would be a great fit in Motown and that his style of play fits in well with the Red Wings systems.
Deciding if your future is with Jimmy Howard or Tomas Vokoun could be a dilemma for Red Wings GM Holland. Vokoun may work out as a rental and if that is the case the sacrifice will be on a small scale.
The Wings need to make cap room, and while that could be done by making other deals with other clubs to free that space, Wings GM Holland could very well allow one of his soon-to-be free agent goalies go in return for Vokoun as well as other roster players. The issue now for the Wings is health.
As many are predicting, veteran Wings goalie Chris Osgood could very well see retirement at seasons end and would like nothing more that another Stanley Cup before he does. Osgood would provide a great back-up to Vokoun.
That means that Jimmy Howard could be part of the pieces of a trade.
Himself set to be a UFA, Howard and his $720,000 contract will be getting a raise next season and that could happen in another uniform.
For the Panthers, having a young established goalie in Howard, and eventually Jacob Markstom could set the Panthers up for the future. Should Markstrom not meet expectations, Howard would be the security blanket.
Same situation applies for Howard. Play and see if South Florida is the place he wants to be come July 1st.
Another scenario could see Vokoun used as a rental. The trade might be more difficult to complete but nevertheless it should be considered. Wings prospects like Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak might be offered with the Wings still needing to deal with cap issues.
Potential trade could look like:
Valtteri Filppula C, Jimmy Howard G and Ruslan Salei D to Florida for Tomas Vokoun G and 3rd round selection in 2011 NHL entry draft. The Wings would need to secure another defenseman and eat about a half million dollars in salary difference.
I would say the potential of any deal occurring with the Detroit Red Wings is: 50%
Could these two be headed to Ottawa at the trade deadline?
The Ottawa Senators could very well look different next season.
From all indications, there could be a potential house cleaning about to happen in Canada's capital city.
While the realities of these moves are not yet known, the Senators might be willing to help other teams out this season while trying to help themselves.
The Sens are a club looking to make more tradition hockey trades (players for players rather than draft picks and prospects) the Sens might be willing to make whatever deals they can in order to turn around their struggling season and move toward a brighter future.
Having said all of that, the Senators have identified that they need better goaltending.
Sens coach Cory Clouston has vented his frustration with his current goalies, both at practices and to the local and national media during this season.
While Senators general manager Bryan Murray has the green light to make whatever moves he feels will help the struggling club, there might be a deal or two he makes simply to make a deal and move players out of Ottawa.
No matter what happens with the Senators, they will need to improve there goaltending and Tomas Vokoun could be that goalie. The Sens might have to risk the fact that Vokoun will sign elsewhere in July, but at least they will have some exclusive time in order to work out any future working agreements.
Ottawa like Detroit, Vancouver, Pittsburgh and Boston are all tight to the cap ceiling, but unlike the Wings, Canucks and Bruins the Sens are not in a play-off position.
However with the rumors of a potential house cleaning in Ottawa, a ton of cap space might open up if Sens GM Bryan Murray can pull off a few trades.
The reality of life for the Florida Panthers is that they need to score more goals.
Only New Jersey, Islanders, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota, Columbus, St.Louis and Edmonton have scored less than Florida. Only Montreal is in a current play-off spot, sitting 7th in the Eastern Conference.
Out of that list, Ottawa and New Jersey fall almost 20 goals behind the pack as each of the other teams mentioned have scored in the neighbourhood of 130 goals so far this season.
The Devils and Sens are barely over 100 goals scored.
It would seem surprising to suggest that Florida and Ottawa make a deal, but maybe there is something here.
The Senators goalies, Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott are scheduled to be free agents, Leclaire a UFA and Elloitt an RFA. Other notable UFA's for Ottawa are Alex Kovalev, Jarkko Ruuttu, Ryan Shannon, Chris Phillips and Leclaire.
RFA's Zack Smith, Chris Campoli and the aforementioned Brian Elliott.
While the Jason Spezza trade rumors are running rampid, the potential for Mike Fisher to be traded could have more upside.
Fisher has a limited no trade clause understood to be 10 teams he can name. It would be interesting to see if Florida would be one of those teams.
Add the fact that Spezza has four more years at $7M/season and it's hard to find any takers, not to mention his no trade clause. However, there are rumors he wants out of Ottawa.
Another piece could be defenseman Filip Kuba who has another year at just under $4M/season left on his contract. His no trade clause has expired and could be good as gone.
Potential trade could look like:
Mike Fisher C, Peter Regin C Filip Kuba D and RW Chris Neil to Florida for Tomas Vokoun G, Bryan Allen D, Stephen Weiss C and 3rd round selection in 2011 (previously acquired in Nathan Horton/Dennis Wideman deal).
This deal could work out for both sides. Should Vokoun decide to sign elsewhere on July 1st, the Sens have freed up some serious cap space and the Panthers get four player with term on their contracts without spending more than they are currently.
It would also mean that Jacob Markstrom would be moved up earlier than expected. Goalie Scott Clemmensen has another year on his deal.
I would say the potential of any deal occurring with the Senators is: 65%
Maybe a Panther by February 28th?
The San Jose Sharks might be able to find some spare change under the cushions in order to acquire Tomas Vokoun.
The Sharks are near the Cap ceiling, but have some wiggle room and might be ready to add a goaltender of the stature of Vokoun.
It could also answer that long asked question in San Jose about goaltending.
The reality in San Jose is that their "core" players don't include a goalie. In fact, Antti Niemi only has a one-year deal and could be gone on July 1st as a UFA. Antero Niittymaki has another year on his deal, but overall the Sharks cuurently spend less that Vokoun's contract on their two goalies, each making $2M/season.
That San Jose "Core" consisting of Heatley, Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski and Dan Boyle are under raps until after the 2014-15 season. Others would include Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edourd Vlasic and Jason Demers others who are under contract until the end of 2012-13 season.
Could Sharks general manager Doug Wilson be willing to deal one or two of these players in order to get the services of Tomas Vokoun?
Let's look at this another way.
Would the Sharks really be in the running to sign Tomas Vokoun come July 1st?
The Sharks currently have about $900,000 in cap space and add some long-term injury money and they have just over a million dollars and can absorb a cap hit of $2.75M.
By making a deal for Vokoun now, the Sharks would already be able to free up money to potentially sign him.
D Jason Demers and C/RW Joe Pavelski are candidates. Add G Anntti Niemi possibly?
As for replacing Demers on the blueline, a trade could get another one in return or D Justin Braun might be ready for regular NHL duty.
Potential trade could look like:
Joe Pavelski C/RW, Jason Demers D to Florida for Tomas Vokoun G and 2nd round selection in 2011, upgraded to 1st round should Vokoun not sign with Sharks.
There is always the potential of Vokoun signing a deal with Florida and then be traded. This would add extra security to any deal and the potential might happen here.
I would say the potential of any deal occurring with the San Jose Sharks is: 85%
Tomas Vokoun has averaged over 60 starts/season during his three full seasons in Florida and is on pace to play in over 60 yet again this year.
Considered one the best goalies in the NHL, the native of Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic could very well be a hot commodity this off season as a UFA.
While most teams in the NHL have settled on their goal situations, it should be noted that many teams would like to upgrade.
The fact that Vokoun could very well be that elite goalie that could solidify the chances of a team making a deep run in the Stanley Cup play-offs is something worth while to many team to consider.
Vokoun has only 11 career play-off games of experience. His last play-off games where in 2006-07 as a member of the Nashville Predators. His other post-season experience was before the 2004-05 NHL lock-out.
Vokoun will turn 35 on July 2nd and while the possibility that he might gain a huge free-agent contract seems to be in the future, there would be concerns that at his age the contract would fall under the 35+ rule in the NHL, making whatever contract he signs a guaranteed contract.
Should teams be worried that Vokoun will become 35 in July?
Detroit's Jimmy Howard, San Jose's Antti Niemi, often injured Minnesota's Josh Harding and Edmonton's Jeff Deslaurier are all set to become UFA and are almost 10 years younger that Vokoun.
Other competition will come from Colorado goalie Craig Anderson, who at age 29 finds himself a UFA at seasons end.
I believe that it's not a major concern, but a concern nevertheless.
The near future will tell if Vokoun is to remain a Panther. With the Panthers seven points out of a play-off spot, that decision may occur quicker than anticipated.
Mike MacDonald is a Feature Columnist covering the Nashville Predators and the NHL.