Will the Florida Panthers re-sign Sergei Samsonov or let him walk? (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
Prior to his trade from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Florida Panthers it appeared veteran left winger Sergei Samsonov was playing through his last NHL season.
The 32-year-old is in the final season of his three-year contract, but was struggling through a 26-point performance in 58 games with the Hurricanes, leading to speculation he'd have to play in Europe next season.
But since joining the Panthers at the trade deadline Samsonov has played nearly 20 minutes per game on their top line and has nine points in 11 games, prompting George Richards of the Miami Herald to suggest management should dip into the team’s available cap space to re-sign the Russian.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon currently has $16.7 million committed to nine players for next season and even though he won't spend up to the projected cap ceiling of $62 million, Tallon will still have plenty of cap space to retain Samsonov if he wishes.
If Florida does try to retain him, Samsonov can expect a one-year offer for perhaps half of the $2.8 million he's earning this season (his cap hit is $2.5 million) because he's probably not going to get a much better offer than that as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Foxsports Florida's Frank Forte also reported Tallon would like to re-sign veteran checking center Marty Reasoner. Ryan Carter has also played well enough so far to fill the Panthers fourth line center role next season.
Like Samsonov, Reasoner (current cap hit: $1.15 million) and Carter ($625,000) are unrestricted free agents and will be affordable to re-sign.
Forte feels the one big question mark is Tomas Vokoun, who is also eligible for UFA status this summer. The veteran netminder may find it difficult to land a big contract as the goalie market has been devalued around the league this season, with teams unwilling to pay big bucks for free agent netminders.
It's believed Tallon shopped Vokoun prior to the trade deadline, but couldn't find any takers, which isn't surprising given the goalie’s $6.3 million salary ($5.7 million cap hit) for this season. Forte suggested Vokoun will face having to accept a 50 percent pay cut this summer from either the Panthers or another club if he opts to test the free agent market.
If Vokoun wants big money he’ll have to consider signing with a team in Russia's Kontinental League, but if he wants to stay in the NHL, a one-year deal for around $4 million will be about the best offer he gets this summer.
Back in January, Tallon and Vokoun suggested there was a possibility the goalie would re-sign with the Panthers. A poor free agent market for goalies will help make that a reality.
SENATORS SETTLE ON STARTER: WHO WILL PLAY BACKUP?
The Ottawa Senators secured their starting goaltender role, re-signing recently acquired Craig Anderson to a four-year, $12.75 million extension.
Now the question is, who will backup Anderson next season?
Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun recently reported Curtis McElhinney, who was acquired by the Senators off waivers from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, has impressed management and the coaching staff when filling in for Anderson.
McElhinney is an unrestricted free agent this summer and hasn’t received any guarantees he'll be re-signed, but the odds appeared to improve when GM Bryan Murray told the local media on Monday he expected to start promising rookie Robin Lehner in the minors next season to give him more professional seasoning.
Murray also confirmed oft-injured former starter Pascal Leclaire's days with the Senators are over. Leclaire's lengthy injury history likely means his NHL playing career is finished.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.