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Vokoun top goalie available when free agency starts

Wednesday, 06.29.2011 / 4:50 PM / NHL Free Agency 2011

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon knows he has a busy summer ahead of him. Getting Tomas Vokoun's name on a new contract would allow him to start it in a good way.

With Ilya Bryzgalov (Philadelphia) and Dwayne Roloson (Tampa Bay) off the market, Vokoun becomes the best goaltender available when free agency opens at noon ET on July 1.

Vokoun won just 22 games last season, but his .922 save percentage was 10th in the League, and his six shutouts were tied for the second-best single-season total in his 13 NHL seasons.

"We're in negotiations with him (Vokoun) as we speak and we're very hopeful," Tallon said on a conference call with local reporters Wednesday. "That's all I can tell you."

Here are a few other goaltenders that could be in demand when free agency opens:

NET GAINS

Ray Emery -- A medical marvel following career-threatening hip surgery last year, Emery was outstanding in 10 late-season games with the Ducks, going 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and then starting five of the Ducks' six playoff games. He's just 28 and has won big games before -- he backstopped the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- The 34-year-old isn't the same goalie who won the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy, but he remains a strong, stable veteran that could help a team. He played just four games for the Maple Leafs after March 1 due to injury and the rise of rookie James Reimer, but a healthy Giguere could be a solid contributor.

Mike Smith -- He played just 22 games for Tampa Bay due to a knee injury and the acquisition of Dwayne Roloson, but Smith won 13 games with 2.90 GAA. He was solid in the playoffs, allowing just two goals on 48 shots in 120 minutes of relief action. He's just 29, and remains very talented.

Jose Theodore -- The 34-year-old had a solid season as Niklas Backstrom's backup in Minnesota this past season, going 15-11-3 in 32 games. However, his 2.71 GAA was his best in three seasons, and his .916 save percentage was his best since his Vezina and Hart Trophy-winning 2001-02 season. He's shown he can still play in the League, and in the right situation as a full-time starter.

BEST BARGAINS

Brian Boucher
-- Boucher isn't a full-time starter, but over the last four seasons with San Jose and Philadelphia, the 34-year-old has shown he can be a solid contributor as a backup -- he has a 2.44 GAA in 94 games since 2007-08 -- and can be a positive influence in the locker room. His numbers against the Sabres in the first round of the playoffs were outstanding (4-1, 2.09 GAA, .934 save percentage).
 
Cedrick Desjardins -- He's won a Memorial Cup, an ECHL championship and guided a team to the AHL finals -- but has yet to stick on an NHL roster. He won both games he played for the Lightning this past season, allowing just one goal in each. At age 25, he could be ready to make the jump to full-time NHL player.
 
Josh Harding -- The 26-year-old has shown promise in small opportunities with the Minnesota Wild over the last five seasons, but a knee injury sidelined him for all of 2010-11. He's never played more than 30 games in a season, but he had a 2.21 GAA in 19 games in 2008-09 and has a lifetime 2.66 GAA.
 
Johan Hedberg -- Much like Boucher, the 38-year-old Hedberg isn't suited to a full-time starting role, but he showed this season in New Jersey that he can handle the load in certain situations. His 2.38 GAA this season was the best of his career, and he also had a .912 save percentage. At his age it's questionable if he wants to play another season, but he'd certainly be a nice complement to a team with a young goaltender.
 
Pascal Leclaire -- Leclaire's talent never has been the question. The biggest issue has been his fragility. He played just 14 games this season with Ottawa, and has played more than 34 games just once in seven NHL seasons. However, that one season he was sensational, going 24-17-6 with a 2.25 GAA in 54 games for the Blue Jackets. That season earned him a three-year contract worth $3.8 million per season. If he can stay healthy -- and is willing to take a pay cut -- he might be worth a chance.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory