NHL Free Agency: Possible Destinations for Panthers Goaltender Tomas Vokoun

Alison Myers@AlisonM_110Correspondent IJune 15, 2011

NHL Free Agency: Possible Destinations for Panthers Goaltender Tomas Vokoun

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    SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 3: Goaltender Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers watches action from the bench against the Montreal Canadiens on March 3, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Canadiens defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joe
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The NHL free agency period begins in a little over two weeks from now, and Florida Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be one of the hottest commodities on the market.

    Vokoun, who has been with the struggling Panthers franchise for the last four seasons, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Although the majority of teams have their starting goaltenders lined up for the next several years, there are still some possible landing spots for Vokoun.

    Let's look at some teams where he could sign, as well as the likelihood of each possibility.

    Do you have a different destination in mind for Vokoun? Do you even think it's a possibility he could end up back in Sunrise for the 2011-12 season?

    Let me know in the comments.

What You Get

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 22:  Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Rangers on March 22, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Rangers defeated the Islanders 1-0.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2010-11 Salary: $6.3 million

    2010-11 Record: 22-28-5 with six shutouts (sixth in the NHL) with a .922 save percentage (10th) and 2.56 GAA 

     

    Upside

    Vokoun has put up solid numbers despite playing on a mediocre team. He can keep his team in the game. He is also a good veteran netminder, as he spent eight seasons in the Nashville Predators organization (1998-2006) before joining the Panthers.

     

    Downside

    Vokoun lacks Stanley Cup playoff experience. He is 3-8 in 11 playoff games and has a 2.47 GAA.

Possible Destination No. 1: Colorado Avalanche

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    GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 01:  Goaltender Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on April 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Avalanche defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in an overtime shoo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Avalanche had high expectations coming into this season, but a miserable second half decline saw them out of the postseason and in 14th in the Western Conference. They finished the year with just 68 points.

    After Craig Anderson was traded to the Ottawa Senators, Peter Budaj took over most of the workload for the Avs. He finished 15-21-4 with one shutout in 45 games to go with a .895 save percentage and 3.20 GAA. Budaj will be a UFA come the beginning of July.

    Brian Elliott, the goaltender who came over in the Senators trade, had a combined record of 15-27-9 with a .893 save percentage and 3.34 GAA. He also had three shutouts. Elliott is a restricted free agent, but as of this writing, he has not been re-signed by Colorado.

    Elliott had a solid season in 2009-10, going 29-18-4 with five shutouts and also posting a 2.57 GAA and a .909 save percentage. He obviously took a big step  back this season, but you could also attribute that to the fact that he played on a poor Senators team.

    Vokoun can come in if the Avalanche feel that Elliott's 2010-11 season was more than a fluke. He has experience carrying a heavy workload, and Elliott has yet to do that consistently.

    Likelihood: Colorado is a good possibility, but the Avalanche may still have faith in Elliott and not want to dump him yet.

Possible Destination No. 2: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 22:  Goalie Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets looks on during a break in the action against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 22, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Mason collect the loss as the Avalanche defeated the
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Blue Jackets have only made the playoffs once in their franchise history, and that was in 2008-09. They were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

    Steve Mason has been the starter for Columbus, and he has three 20-win seasons. He struggled in 2009-10, going 20-26-9 with a .901 save percentage. However, he had five shutouts that year. This past season, he improved slightly, posting a 24-21-7 record with three shutouts to go with a .901 save percentage and 3.03 GAA.

    Mason is under contract for two more years at the price of $2.6 million for 2011-12 and $3.2 million for 2012-13.

    Mathieu Garon backed up Mason the last two years, but he is an unrestricted free agent this year. Garon went 22-23-12 with five shutouts in 71 games and also had a .902 save percentage and 2.76 GAA.

    The Jackets are in win now mode, and they need some big name players besides Rick Nash to make it happen. Mason has the talent, but will he be able to turn things around?

    Likelihood: This could be a possibility for Vokoun if the Jackets were willing to trade Mason. But just like with the Avalanche and Elliott, are they really ready to lose faith in him? While the idea of Vokoun in red, white and blue may seem nice to Jackets fans, they shouldn't count on it.

Possible Destination No. 3: Edmonton Oilers

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 13:  Goaltender Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Edmonton Oilers guards the net  against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 13, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Oilers have finished last in the Western Conference for the last two years, but things are looking up. They have top picks Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall to build around, and in goal, they have a rising starter named Devan Dubnyk.

    Dubnyk went 12-13-8 in 35 games this year while posting a .916 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. This was his first full season with the Oilers, and he is under contract for the coming season.

    The Oilers are set to let Jeff Deslauriers head to free agency, and they also have the contract of Nikolai Khabibulin tying them down. Khabibulin had a league worst 32 losses this year, going 10-32-4 in 47 games. He had a .890 save percentage and 3.40 GAA. Khabibulin has been on the decline for the last two years and has had injury troubles, as well as a run-in with the law for a drunk driving charge.

    Unfortunately, Khabibulin is being paid $3.75 million a year for the next two years. Ouch.

    Likelihood: Slim to none chance Vokoun ends up in Alberta. Dubnyk doesn't really deserve to be a backup goaltender, and good luck finding a taker for Khabibulin's contract.

Possible Destination No. 4: Philadelphia Flyers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 14:  Sergei Bobrovsky #35  of the Philadelphia Flyers tends net against the Buffalo Sabres in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 14, 2011 in Phi
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Now, for this to happen, we have to assume that Ilya Bryzgalov, whose negotiating rights were traded to Philadelphia, does not sign with the Flyers.

    As of this writing, he has not been given a contract, so let's proceed with speculation.

    The Flyers will lose Brian Boucher to free agency this year. Boucher played 30 games in each of the last two seasons and went 27-28-7 in 77 games. He also went 10-10 in 21 postseason games.

    Sergei Bobrovsky played his first season in North America this year, and he had a solid rookie record, going 28-13-8 in 54 games. He posted a .915 save percentage and 2.59 GAA. He also played in six postseason games, going 0-2 with a .877 save percentage and 3.23 GAA. Bobrovsky is under contract through the 2013-14 season.

    Michael Leighton spent much of the year with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL and played in just one regular season game. He participated in two playoff games, earning one loss to go with a .862 save percentage and 3.43 GAA. Leighton has one more year left on his deal.

    And now, we can throw in Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov had a better year than Vokoun, going 36-20-10 (sixth in wins) and posting a 2.48 GAA and .921 save percentage. He was also fourth with seven shutouts.

    Likelihood: Vokoun will be a good fit should the Flyers not elect to sign Bryzgalov. But, Bryzgalov is a Stanley Cup winner and a Vezina Trophy nominee. The Flyers would be foolish not to sign the former Coyotes goaltender, thus ending any chance of Vokoun playing on Broad Street.

Possible Destination No. 5: Phoenix Coyotes

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    GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 20:  Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates out onto the ice for Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Detroit Red Wings during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on Apri
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Coyotes traded away the negotiating rights of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers. Bryzgalov helped lead Phoenix back to the playoffs the last two years, but it is time to move on.

    Jason LaBarbera backed up Bryzgalov the last two seasons, and he was recently signed to a two-year contract. In 34 games from 2009 to this year, he was 15-11-4 in 34 games with a .918 save percentage and 2.69 GAA. Those are respectable numbers, but he's not likely to be a starting goaltender.

    The only drawback may be whether or not the Coyotes can afford the kind of salary Vokoun was commanding. Bryzgalov made less than Vokoun this year, coming in at $4.5 million a year.

    Likelihood: For the right price, this could be the most likely destination for Vokoun. The Coyotes could replace one capable starting netminder with another, even if Vokoun is not half the standout Bryzgalov was.

Possible Destination No. 6: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 27:  Dwayne Roloson #35 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reaches for a glove save in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Roga
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson really turned his season around once he was traded to Tampa from the New York Islanders. He went 18-12-4 with four shutouts after being acquired and also posted a .912 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA. He finished the 2010-11 season with a record of 24-25-5 with a .914 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.

    However, Roloson really shined in Tampa Bay's Cinderella playoff run. He went 10-6 to rank third in the NHL in wins and was fourth with a .924 save percentage and sixth with a 2.51 GAA.

    Roloson wants to come back to Tampa, and general manager Steve Yzerman is happy to sign him if he can. That being said, we can't ignore the fact that Roloson is 41 years old and could be slowing down soon.

    Tampa also had Mike Smith, who has only had one winning season with the Bolts, and that was this year. He went 13-6, but had just a .899 save percentage. He also had a 2.96 GAA. Like Roloson, he wants to come back to Tampa, but he may not have done enough for another contract.

    The Lightning also have prospect Dustin Tokarski in the system. Tokarski has had two solid seasons with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, and this year, he helped them to their first playoff appearance since 2007.

    Likelihood: Much like the situation with the Flyers, this is dependent on which goaltenders Yzerman re-signs. He's probably not going to bring back both Smith and Roloson. Vokoun could end up with his intrastate rivals if Roloson does not re-sign.