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Panthers and Tomas Vokoun discussing contract extension, getting benched won’t help matters

Jan 13, 2011, 3:34 PM EDT

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Before the season began, Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun was being eyed up as a candidate to be a deadline deal trading chip. The Panthers didn’t figure to be in the playoff hunt and Vokoun is on the final year of his contract so from the armchair GM’s view, it seemed like a logical possibility. News this week hit that the Panthers and GM Dale Tallon are reaching out to Vokoun’s agent  to work on a contract extension with the overworked and under-supported 34 year-old Czech netminder.

Of course, something that might help make negotiations more difficult are troubles with the coaching staff. While Vokoun’s never really had issues with them before, he’s got one with them now as he’s being benched for tonight’s game against Nashville in favor of Scott Clemmensen.

After coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Caps the other night, you’d think coach Pete DeBoer would ride the hot hand against a streaking Predators team. As Harvey Fialkov of the Florida Sun-Sentinel tells us, you’d be wrong to assume that.

When asked if he was surprised by the move, Vokoun said, “Absolutely.”

“I’m very surprised,” he added. “I got an explanation but didn’t agree with it. My job is to play. The coach is there to make the decisions. I’m here to obey them whether I like it or not. It’s not very usual for a goalie after you win a game. I personally didn’t think I played a bad game. It seemed like he had a different assessment.”

DeBoer said it had nothing to do with matchups, but rather that Clemmense had been playing well of late.

To be fair to DeBoer, Vokoun’s been rather average of late allowing three or more goals in six of his last seven starts so there is reason to give Clemmensen a shot to shutdown the Preds. That said, the timing is really awkward considering the Panthers apparent efforts to work out a contract extension with Vokoun.

If Vokoun is having any problems with DeBoer that puts more pressure on Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos to take a look at the job the coach is doing if they’re sincere in their efforts to keep re-sign him. Of course, it’s more than likely that this is just a small bump in the road over the course of a season and there’s nothing more there. Then again, if there are issues running deeper than what’s apparent all the leverage belongs to Vokoun.

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