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Panthers sign one Tomas, working on another

Wednesday, 06.29.2011 / 3:52 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Panthers sign one Tomas, working on another
The Florida Panthers convinced Tomas Kopecky to sign a long-term contract, and now they're trying to do the same with goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon convinced at least one Tomas to join the Panthers' rebuilding project Wednesday. The question now is, can he persuade the other -- and perhaps more important -- Tomas to do the same.

While Tomas Kopecky's signing for four years at a reported $12 million was the official news out of Sunrise, Fla., thoughts remained on the future of Panthers star goalie Tomas Vokoun, who will become an unrestricted free agent at noon ET on July 1 if Tallon can't get him under contract beforehand.

"We're in negotiations with him 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."

The Panthers have the money to spend on the 34-year-old Vokoun, who despite his age likely will command a big salary if he hits the open market Friday.

Even with Kopecky's contract, which calls for a $3 million cap hit, and the addition of Brian Campbell's $7.1 million cap hit, Florida still has to spend roughly $22 million to get to the salary-cap floor of $48.3 million, according to CapGeek.com. The Panthers only have 13 players signed.

The other teams that appear to be in the market for a No. 1 goalie are Colorado and Phoenix. CapGeek lists the Avalanche and Coyotes as more than $11 million below the floor, with 15 players signed.

With Ilya Bryzgalov signed in Philadelphia for nine years, Vokoun is the No. 1 remaining goaltender that potentially could be available on the open market. He won only 22 games last season, but he posted a .922 save percentage, 2.55 goals-against average and six shutouts.

Vokoun has a career .917 save percentage, 2.56 GAA, 262 wins and 44 shutouts. He's been with the Panthers since 2007-08.

"I know what needs to be done here and we're on the right track," Tallon said. "I want people that are passionate about being Panthers."

Tallon feels he got that with Kopecky, which is why he was eager to sign the Slovak forward after acquiring his negotiating rights from Chicago for a seventh-round draft pick Monday.

He's not worried about critics saying he overpaid for Kopecky, who has 95 points in 338 NHL games, but is a two-time Stanley Cup winner (Detroit 2008, Chicago 2010).

"I like champions," Tallon said. "He was successful in Detroit and successful in Chicago. I like his personality. I like his grit. I like his versatility."

Kopecky posted career-highs in goals (15), assists (27), points (42) and games played (81) with the Blackhawks last season. Tallon said his best is yet to come.

"We had the opportunity to get him done before (July 1), and that was something that was important," Tallon said. "I'd rather have some stability and know what I have going into (July 1) instead of hoping and waiting for somebody. The more we can get under contract the better it is and the easier it is for us to move forward."

Tallon expects to be busy over the weekend regardless of what happens with Vokoun before or after noon ET on Friday. He said he's looking to sign two "top notch" defensemen and three or four forwards. He's open to trades, as well.

"We're looking forward to making the effort to getting better on a regular basis," Tallon said. "It's a big weekend for us. Hopefully we can get some of the players we want."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Quote of the Day

I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets