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Predators Goaltender Devin Cooley To Test Free Agency



Milwaukee Admirals Goaltender Devin Cooley

Historically, the Nashville Predators have been known for their goaltending depth.

And as Barry Trotz eases into his new role as the team’s new general manager, he may have a few difficult decisions to make. The Predators have five goalies in their system, and two of them have expiring contracts this summer and re-signing them may not be Trotz’s desire.

Less than 24 hours after the Milwaukee Admirals season ended in Game 6 of the AHL Western Conference Final, top Predators prospect and Ads goaltender Yaroslav Askarov published an Instagram post reflecting on his first season in North America, and Devin Cooley, who backed up Askarov for most of the season, posted an intriguing response.

“You have a great career ahead of you. Was an honor to be your goalie partner,” Cooley wrote, to which Askarov responded with, “I’ll miss you brother.”

Cooley is coming off four consecutive postseason starts for the Admirals against the Coachella Valley Firebirds. The Los Gatos, California native went 2-2, posting a 2.29 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. During his 25 regular season starts, he had a 15-8-2 record with a 2.93 GAA and .909 save percentage.

Since Cooley wasn’t on the Predators’ roster for at least 28 games and he didn’t accumulate more than 30 minutes of ice time, he will become an unrestricted free agent. Typically, a player heads to restricted free agency if he meets or exceeds those requirements and is less than 27 years old.

Once he hits free agency, Cooley plans to test the open market this summer, according to his agent Daniel Milstein of Gold Star Sports Management.

“It’s all about the opportunity,” Milstein told Nashville Hockey Now. “Devin would like to be (the) No. 2 or 3 (goalie) in the system, not No. 4. Otherwise, (he) loves Nashville.”

Before the AHL playoffs began, Cooley explained what his future plans entailed and where he wants to be long-term.

“For me as a free agent, (I’m) looking where the best opportunity is going to be for me to get to the NHL,” Cooley said. “That’s the end goal. Me and my agency, we’re going to look at where we’ll have the best opportunity that gets the most amount of playing time and have the best opportunity to get to the NHL.

“Where that’s going to be, I can’t exactly say yet. We’ll see what other teams are saying and what Nashville is saying. We’ll take it one day at a time and go from there.”

NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes reported on April 21st that Cooley switched agents, moving from Scott Norton, who Cooley had been with since signing with the Predators while sitting in a hotel room fresh out of the University of Denver, to Milstein at Gold Star.

Cooley confirmed he made the switch near the end of the regular season when he was approached by Gold Star leading into the postseason. So far, he’s been impressed with what they’ve come up and the conversations he’s had with Milstein.

“This upcoming year is a big year for me, it’s the first time I’ll be a free agent in my career,” Cooley said. “I had a great relationship with my last agent, he’s a good guy. I just thought the switch would put me in the best situation leading into my free-agent year.

“Last year, it was getting to the AHL and staying in the AHL. This year is more about making an impact. Every year you have different goals, every year you’re trying to go further and further. It is just extremely important to just look back and go, ‘Dang, I have come a long way and it’s just the beginning.'”

Another piece to the Predators goaltending puzzle is Czech native Tomas Vomacka. The former fifth-round pick is eligible for arbitration this offseason, but he told Nashville Hockey Now that he is not staying in the U.S.

“I’m going home and then I’ll see what happens next,” Vomacka said.

Vomacka’s former agent John Kofi Osei-Tutu said the 24-year-old goalie retained an agent back home and will make a decision from there, depending on what he hears from Nashville’s end.

Potentially losing two goaltenders, Trotz and his staff will need to find more depth at the position whether it comes from the draft in a few weeks, a free-agent signing or retaining either Cooley or Vomacka.

Predators starting goaltender Juuse Saros has two more seasons left on his contract for $5 million per season and backup Kevin Lankinen signed a one-year, $2 million deal before the regular season ended. A fluid situation has started in Nashville — one that is worth keeping an eye on.

Follow Nick Kieser on Twitter @KieserNick

(Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals)

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