Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free Agency Just Hours Away

The countdown is on for Free Agency 2009, and the Panthers may actually be an active participant this year. According to GM-for-now Randy Sexton, it will depend on what they can get accomplished with current players before the market opens. With Jay Bouwmeester's rights shipped to Calgary, Richard Zednik having already packed his bags for Russia, and Nick Boynton, Brett Mclean, Anthony Stewart, and Jassen Cullimore basically being told they aren't being welcomed back, that leaves Radek Dvorak, Ville Peltonen, Karlis Skrastins, Jordan Leopold, Steve Eminger, and Craig Anderson to deal with. All could be\would be unrestricted free agents tomorrow.

Of those UFA's who were Panthers last year, I could see bringing back Dvorak OR Pelts, but not both. They are both in their mid-30's, and bring the same characteristics. Last year showed that you can have a roster full of good heart\good character players, but if they aren't putting the puck in the net, someone who can needs to be found.

Skrastins would be a nice hold over, but not for the $2.4 mil a year he was making. Leopold and Eminger are younger and cheaper, and personally, I think Skrastins benefited enormously by playing with Bouwmeester. Besides, Keaton Ellerby and Jason Garrison are just waiting for a chance to prove they can play at the NHL level.

As for Craig Anderson... this is the most interesting case for Sexton. Andy feels he is good enough to be a starter. Agreed. He's going to want a raise. Fair enough. The only problem with that is that our current #1, Tomas Vokoun, is the highest paid player on the roster. Spending almost $9 mil on goaltending alone (considering only one can play at a time...) seems ludicrous. So, can Sexton convince Mr. Anderson to ride the pine another year for a minimal raise? The Panthers drafted Swedish phenom Jakob Markstrom last summer for a reason. But Markstrom is still at least a season away, and it would be folly to simply hire a mediocre to poor backup as a holdover. One twist of the knee to Vokoun, and ________ would be our starter. Andy is a solid backup, and if we can keep him for one more year (again, for the right price) then kudos. If not... it wouldn't be a bad thing to go after a castoff starter\backup from the UFA market. A few that pop into mind...Peter Budaj, Brian Boucher\Antero Niitymaki, Martin Biron, Yann Denis all performed well in stints last year. If any of these could be signed for backup money, it would be a nice move.

Of the big names that are out there, there are a couple that make actually make it into the Panthers' locker room. If Randy Sexton wants to make a big splash and gain some big browine points, maybe he'll take a look at these;

Mike Cammilleri - A center (check #1-obvious need), and while he will probably make around $4 mil next season, he provides an instant and clear cut #1 center\scorer. If the Flames are able to sign that Bouwmeester kid, they will have to dump salary somewhere.

Brian Gionta - It's been a few years since he nearly eclipsed the 50 goal plateau, but he has made it known he's looking to become the focal point of a team's offense, and he would certainly be that in south Florida. Again, at around $4 mil, the price could be right.

Mike Knuble - Like Calgary, the Flyers are in salary cap hell. A victim of roster cuts could be Knuble. As close to a sure-thing 20 goal\50 point guy, I think he could also slide in very comfortably to Pete DeBoer's high tempo, aggressive offense.

Be sure to stay locked in tomorrow through the day for any moves the Panthers do make. For a full list of free agents, check out ESPN.com's FA tracker. Until something happens...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy Pre-Free-Agency-Eve-Day?

With the hockey world awaiting Free Agency Day, the Florida Panthers extended qualifying offers to only two of their pending free agents today, David Booth and prospect David Brine. Players of note left on the outs include Steve Eminger, Anthony Stewart, and Brett McLean.

Eminger, who was acquired at the trade deadline in March, may still be playing for Florida next season, if the price is right. In fact, the whole tone of the official release on the Panthers' site seemed to be all about the benjamins, so to speak.

So heading into the day before free agents are able to sign, here's what's on the table.
Karlis Skrastins
Radek Dvorak
Ville Peltonen
Jordan Leopold
Craig Anderson

As Mr. Sexton said, if the price is right, they could all be wearing Florida jerseys next season. The goaltending situation is probably the most vital. Obviously, Tomas Vokoun makes the big bucks and is the starter. The question is, how willing is Craig Anderson to ride the pine, even if he does get a nice raise?

It also appears as though the organization has finally given up hope that Anthony Stewart and Brett McLean will magically turn into productive NHLers. Quality checking liners that they were, they just never turned the corner. Roster spots open for Matthias\Repik? Or is this an indication that Randy Sexton isn't done filling his resume?

Heads up, tomorrow I'll hopefully get a wish list of available free agents hitting the market, I'm just sick and too lazy to go through it now... But there are obvious needs the Panthers will (hopefully) address come Wednesday... Until then...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bye, Bye Bouwmeester!

Everyone knew this day was coming, we just weren't sure how exactly it would go down. Jay Bouwmeester (or more specifically, his rights) were traded to the Calgary Flames early this morning in exchange for the Flames 3rd round pick (67th overall) and free agent defenceman Jordan Leopold.

When the Panthers failed to, or chose not to trade Bo in March, everyone knew the reality. The Cats were hoping Bouwmeester would push them forward into the postseason before packing his bags for free agency. The playoff push came up short, and that sinking feeling that we would not only miss the playoffs, but lose Bouwmeester for nothing started creeping in. The only hope was to trade his rights at the draft. Because let's face it, something is better than nothing. Now J. Bo gets reunited with Olli Jokinen and will create quite the pairing with Dion Phaneuf (they were #1-#2 in ice time last season). I can only imagine that the BAC faithful will be nothing but polite to Olli and Jay if\when they return to south Florida with the Flames next season...

Jordan Leopold will become a free agent on July 1st, so there is no guarantee that he will be a Panther next season. However, one would assume Florida knew this risk and had talks with Leopold to gain some insight into his frame of mind before pulling the string on the deal. He's a solid defenceman in his own right, and could fit in well with the Panthers, should he decide to sign. A top 4 of Brian McCabe, Bryan Allen, Keith Ballard, and Leopold is not too shabby. Throw in Karlis Skrastins and Steve Eminger, and it's a solid top 6. If Keaton Ellerby, Jason Garrison, or Dmitri Kulikov mature in time... Bouwmeester might not be missed too badly.

Not to be overlooked, the draft continues on. The Panthers chose center Drew Shore with their 2nd round pick (44th overall). Filling a need in center, Shore was ranked as a late 1st-early 2nd rounder by most analysts. He has "potential" written all over him, but will need a few years to grow into an NHLer. He is expected to play for the University of Denver in the fall.

With their earlier acquired 3rd round (67th overall) pick, the Cats selected Josh Birkholz. The gritty winger has no problems playing a physical game, but will also spend the next year or two in the college ranks. He has commited to the University of Minnesota.

The Panthers don't pick again until the 5th round (#135).

Good News Morning!

I wake up to find that Jay Bouwmeester has been traded to Calgary for Jordon Leopold and a 3rd round draft pick. Something is definitely better than nothing! More coming as it unfolds...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Meet the Newest Panther

Here's a few links to some scouting sites regarding Dmitri Kulikov;

The Hockey Writers

My NHL Draft

Russian Prospects.com

Basically, Kulikov looks like a solid puck-moving defenceman who can provide an offensive threat. Depending on what happens over the next few days, Kulikov could have a chance to crack the Panthers roster as soon as next season. With only 3 defencemen from last season signed (Bryan Allen, Brian McCabe, and Keith Ballard), the Panthers added some much needed depth to their blue line. With Keaton Ellerby and Jason Garrison hoping to get a chance with the big club, Kulikov could push them for ice time. And there's nothing wrong with a little competition pushing the youngsters to be just a little better...

It's the 2009 NHL Entry Draft!

10:14 pm - Looks like the Panthers are done for tonight. I must say I'm pretty happy to have Kulikov fall into the Panthers' lap. A top 10 talent and hopefully will turn into a top 4 blue liner for the Cats in the not-too-distant future. Bouwmeester is a Panther for at least one more night, hopefully Sexton can work some kind of magic to get something in return for J. Bo, but that might be hoping for too much. Until tomorrow...


9:08 pm - ...and the Panthers pick Dmitri Kulikov! (after some impressive French by Randy Sexton) Kulikov was a top 10 talent that fell into the Panthers' lap. Quick enough to launch an offensive attack, he's a solid pick up for the Cats, who added some much needed depth to the blue line. A question TSN brought up about his contract status with the Russian KHL, but hopefully that is much ado about nothing and Kulikov is contributing to the Panthers sooner rather than later.


9:05 pm - Panthers are on the clock. John Moore is available and the logical pick...


9:01 pm - TSN's Darren Dregger blogs that the Canadiens and Panthers were conversing, although it doesn't look like Florida is trading their pick. Montreal holds the 18th pick in the 1st round, just fy. And no news on Bouwmeester... yet...


8:56 pm - Garth Snow pulls the first surprise of the draft, trading picks 16, 77, and 182 to Minnesota for the 12th pick, which is used to take Calvin de Haan, who was a bit further down the ranking sheet of most of those who are in the know. Was Snow really worried someone was going to pick up de Haan before the 16th pick? Oh well... Panthers are on deck, waiting for the Sabres now...


8:35 pm - The Oilers finish up the top 10 by picking Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Few surprises in the first hour or so of the draft. 2 of my preview's 6 guys to watch for the Panthers have been drafted. John Moore would be my prediction right now, with 3 more picks to come before the Panthers hit the podium.

1. John Tavares (NYI)
2. Victor Hedman (TBL)
3. Matt Duchene (COL)
4. Evander Kane (ATL)
5. Brayden Schenn (LAK)
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX)
7. Nazem Kadri (TOR)
8. Scott Glennie (DAL)
9. Jared Cowen (OTT)
10. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (EDM)


8:08 pm - no love for Brian Burke or the Leafs in Montreal... big surprise... take Kadri, the first of my 6 to watch! 5 left on my list, hopefully Florida is able to snag one of them sometime tonight. Still no word on J Bo.


7:46 pm - Pretty quiet through the first 5 picks. Pronger got traded to the Flyers, so take Philly off the Bouwmeester list. George Richards latest update is intriguing though... "Just heard a rumor that Jay has been dealt...haven't been able to confirm and have no other details...am working on it..."

Hmmmm.... stay tuned... Coyotes are up next with pick #6...

An Hour To Go...

...and all quiet in Montreal. It looks as though Jay Bouwmeester might not be willing to sign a deal before July 1st after all, so any draft day dealing rumors are moot.

The question is; if he wants to play in Calgary, or Vancouver, or Toronto... and said team is offering a deal today, would Jay still wait? Obviously, he has earned the right to become an unrestricted free agent and can sign where he wants, when he wants. But if the team he wants is asking for him today, what difference will a few days make? Unless he just wants to see how high he can drive the price...?

Hopefully the Panthers can manipulate the situation so they can get SOMETHING in return, but they knew that this was the risk when they failed to trade him in March. Or rather, Jacques Martin knew the risk... but it's not his problem anymore, is it. Such is life in Pantherland. Stay tuned...

UPDATE 6:41 - Heading home from work now... hopefully I don't miss anything and get home before the 14th pick...

First Rumor of the Day...

Well we all know that Jay Bouwmeester is coveted by all, but reportedly 5 teams have shown interest (Flames, Canucks, Flyers, Oilers, Maple Leafs, reportedly...). Well, just read a rumor that the Flames may have acted first.

Jay Bouwmeester's rights to Calgary in exchange for Mike Cammilleri's rights and a mid-round pick. But I wouldn't be too excited about that yet, I have little to zero faith in the source, but still... it doesn't hurt to dream, right? That's what blogs are for anyways. Unsubstantiated rumors and wish lists. Stay tuned...

UPDATE 4:03 - Apparently there might have been some more substance to that earlier rumor than I gave credit to. George Richards from the Miami Herald's latest blog cites another source saying Bo to Calgary. The San Jose Sharks are apparently another team entering the Bouwmeester mix. Read his whole post here...

Draft Day!

The NHL Draft is tonight, and dealings are expected to be going on all day today. I'll be doing my best to stay caught up during my work day and update here as news happens. Most notably, of course, is the Jay Bouwmeester situation. Up to 5 teams are rumored to be in talks with the Panthers regarding J. Bo, including the Flyers, Canucks, and Oilers.

As of now, the Panthers have the 14th pick in tonight's first round, which gets underway around 7:00 on Versus.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Draft Preview!

The 2009 NHL draft is now just 2 short days away, and the Florida Panthers will be looking for not just a new addition to their slowly improving farm system, but maybe, just maybe, find that coal mine that will become a diamond before our eyes. (OK, I know I probably stretched that one, too bad)

The Panthers currently, and I stress currently, hold the 14th, 44th, 135th, and 165th picks. Their 3rd, 4th, and 7th round picks have all been traded away prior. Now what picks Florida will actually make remains to be seen, as there is that Bouwmeester character still on Florida's roster. The likelihood is that he, or rather "negotiating rights," will be traded away before Friday, and draft pick or picks might be coming back, but until that happens, we'll just focus on what we know.

Florida's "needs" are not hard to figure out. They need a top line scorer and depth on the blueline. I don't pretend to have any inside sources or inside information, so this is just a look at who might be available by the time the 14th pick rolls around (because let's be honest, will you still be watching by pick 44?)


Should the Panthers look to add a defender, Jared Cowen might warrant a look. While he has top 10 talent, a knee injury in February cut his last season short, and added some questions as to the durability of the 18 year old. Should he still be available at #14, the Panthers would have to take a long look. He stands an impressive 6'5", 218 lbs, so physicality shouldn't be a problem. This could be a guy worth moving up for.

Another defender who could slip out of the top 10 and into the Panthers' lap is Swedish-born David Rundbland. Think mini Jay Bo (and by mini, I mean only 6'2", 200 lbs). While he's a bit smaller than Cowen, Rundbland is a more fluid skater and more offensive minded. Given a year in Rochester (perhaps filling in for the could-be promoted Keaton Ellerby?), his defensive play should mature and he could be a steal at #14.

And then there's the USHL defenseman of the year, John Moore. A bit slighter frame than Rundbland and Cowen, Moore looks like he might need the most time to develop out of these 3. His skating is his strongest attribute, but at only 190 lbs, he might be a few years away from being able to handle the bigger, stronger, faster NHL forwards.


If the Cats are hoping to find a pure scorer in the uncertainty of the draft, a good candidate for the #14 pick might be London, Ontario native Nazem Kadri. He's listed as a center, which is obviously a shortage in Pantherland. A couple of seasons in Rochester to allow him to fill out might be all that's needed for Kadri to become an elite playmaker in the NHL. Lightning quickness and great vision are reasons to watch him come draft day.

The antithesis of Kadri might be Carter Ashton. While Kadri stands at a dainty 5'11", 175 lbs, Ashton is a brute at 6'4", 212 lbs. He might not be as flashy a scorer, but his strength and grind is more than enough for him to be a bona fide scorer in the NHL, once his talent catches up with his body.

A final forward to look at is Jeremy Morin. He is a pure scorer with an attitude. He was the top threat for the US U18 Development team and if he decides to become a complete player, he would be a nice pickup. Questions about his defensive ability are his biggest downside, but he could easily round out into a top line scorer.

Of course, there are certainly other options that are available or could come available depending on what happens in the next 48 hours. For a full list of draft prospects, please visit our friend and fellow Hockey Writer Chris Ralph's extensive preview. If the Panthers are able to snag one of these six, it'd be a nice step in getting this team back into the postseason. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 19, 2009

And the Breaking News Is...

A trade! The Panthers have sent prospect Stefan Meyer to Phoenix in exchange for Steve Reinprecht, who has signed a 3 year deal.

Here's the good, albeit brieff stuff on the newest Panther; he is a center, which was a clear need for Florida last season. He has a Stanley Cup ring, and experience is never a bad thing to have. He will be another veteran presence in a still young locker room.

Now, for my Negative Nancy, my Panther Pessimism, to come out. He's never eclipsed the 20 goal mark. He has just 1, 50+ point season, and that came in '02-'03. He's played in fewer then 70 games in 7 of his 10 seasons. He has 2nd\3rd liner written all over him.

Yes, it is clear we needed a center. But that doesn't mean just go find a guy with "C" in the position column and call him up. Character guys can only get you so far, as we saw last year. While Stefan Meyer doesn't appear to be anything more then a career AHL'er and probably isn't a prospect that will pan out, it just feels like a lateral move. No financial terms were released, as usual, but you have to think a veteran guy like Reinprecht is going to use up a small chunk of the salary cap, a chunk that could have been used elsewhere on a guy who can actually provide a bona fide scoring threat. To look on the bright side, though, he is a good character guy, a true center who will probably let Horton back to his natural wing position, and hopefully Reinprecht will be able to contribute in other areas. Faceoffs, leadership, PK, etc...

It's also interesting to think that this move was made by an "interim GM" of sorts. I'm sure Randy Sexton is doing what he can to prove that he not only wants the full time gig, but deserves it. Giving up a guy who probably wouldn't make it out of Florida's farm system for a player of Reinprecht's caliber is a good move, no matter which way you shake the stick. Was it the best move? Will it make the product on the ice better? Only time will tell...

Breaking News?

According to the Florida Panther's official site, facebook, and twitter page, "breaking news" is coming, hopefully within the hour. What could be so big that it has to be announced in 3 different venues? A new GM? A Jay Bouwmeester deal? Some overhyped, new marketing ploy? My guess is on the latter, but who knows. Bill Torrey gave an interview the other day and said the GM search would probably take them past the draft, so it'd be quite a surprise if they found their GM already. I can't imagine any progress being made with J-Bo that isn't all over the rumor pages. Sooo in the end, this is probably just some trumped up ad campaign, but stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2009 NHL Draft Preview

A quick reference to my other online home. One of the Hockey Writers is doing an outstanding, in depth preview of the upcoming NHL entry draft, and I encourage you all to head over and check it out by clicking here.

And as always, be sure to head over to THW for Florida Panthers articles that you won't find here! Well, you'll find bits and pieces of them here, but I gotta save the good stuff for the big site.

We're Back!

Back and hopefully better then ever. Apologies for not being more frequent with my posts as of late, but now that the season is officially over, (congratulations the Penguins and all that) I'm hoping to get this going again heading into the draft, free agency, and of course, next season.

So where do the Panthers sit now? Let's start at the top. General Manager Jacques Martin is now the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. The Panthers' GM search has been underway for a week or so now, being led by Mr. Bill Torrey and Assistant GM Randy Sexton. On the list of potentials include former Panthers' coach Doug McLean, former Panthers' broadcaster Denis Potvin, and former Panthers GM Rick Dudley, as well as TV analyst Pierre McGuire and ex-Wild GM Doug Risebrough.

Personally, I think it's time for new blood. We know what the past holds. 1 successful season, 9 years since our last playoff game. Nostalgia aside, this is a pretty weak list. Doug McLean led us to the finals as a head coach... a mere 13 years ago. Since then, he was the head of the Columbus Wild from day 1 of the franchise in '98 until he was fired in 2007 after 9 years and zero winning seasons. Yes, they were an expansion team, but they didn't exactly make progress in their first decade under McLean's leadership.

Denis Potvin we all know and love. He lost his TV gig a couple of months ago now, and probably knows the Panthers better than anyone, being with the organization since its inception. We all feel bad for Potvin, but as far as being a GM, that's as far as his experience goes to my knowledge. What Potvin actually knows about being a GM, I don't know, and I'm not sure why his name is on a list of potential candidates, other then Panther fans feel bad for him.

Pierre McGuire is an interesting option, simply because he's been in television the last 12 years or so. (See Barry Melrose). And how much McGuire actually knows about the Panthers and their needs is yet to be seen.

Then there's Rick Dudley, GM of the Panthers from 2002-2004. Remember that 2003 draft? Nathan Horton over Eric Staal? Anthony Stewart in the first round? Now to be fair, Dudley may have been a victim of the whole Mike Keenan debacle, as Keenan was promoted to the GM position upon Dudley's firing. And Dudley has been an assistant GM in Chicago, who you may remember just made it to the Western Conference Finals after a lengthy run of terrible hockey. But do we really want to give this guy another shot?

Now all that being said, the Panthers' front office cannot simply make this hire based on fond memories of years gone by.

Doug Risebrough has GM experience. He has success on his resume. He has built a playoff team from the ground up before. The Wild were division champs just 2 seasons ago. And maybe most importantly, the Panther fans don't have pre-existing memories of the guy. You have to inject this team with a winning mindset. Pete DeBoer was a good start last season, and was almost enough on its own to get the Panthers into the playoffs. Now let's get a guy up in the office who knows how to win.

There will be more to come as the rumors continue around the vacant GM position, as well as the upcoming draft. Thanks for checking back, as always!