As we all know the Florida Panthers missed the post season for an NHL record 10th consecutive season. There are many who feel that they will extend that record next year as well with all the retooling that needs to be done. That may or may not be true as Florida’s General Manager Dale Tallon certainly has his work cut out for him, but he gets to do this a little bit differently than other GM’s who had a similar opportunity. A clean slate.
The roster of the Panthers was basically “purged” at the trade deadline, as they likes of Cory Stillman, Bryan Allen, Bryan McCabe, Radek Dvorak and Michael Frolik (who left before the deadline) were all traded away for players that made less in order to free up room for some summer free agent shopping. What Dale and the Florida Panthers now can do is spend. They have to spend at least 30 million dollars just to get themselves to the salary cap floor, and that’s a good thing, as there are some players out there that can help Florida over the next couple seasons.
Before any of that happens Tallon’s first order of business is to tackle the hiring of a head coach. A position that he hopes to fill before the draft. Many names are being mentioned, some experienced as head coach’s and some as assistants. I myself am wondering if he uses any of his “Chicago” connections and goes after Mike Haviland, the current Assistant coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. Or does he talk with John Torchetti, who was this past season the Assistant in Atlanta after serving the same role in Chicago. I believe that regardless of who the coach is, we are going to see a different style of play and that’s going to be dictated not only by the coach that’s hired, but by the roster that’s put together. It’s been rather quiet as far as that activity has been, but I heard someone say that if Ken Hitchcock is brought in, Stephen Weiss would be willing to waive his NTC a millisecond after the announcement is made. (That’s honestly just my guess and I didn’t hear it). But I would bet you $1,000 bucks that it’s probable.
The Panthers have five “potential” returning forwards. Weiss, David Booth, Evgeny Dadonov,Rostislav Olesz, and Steven Reinprecht who is still under contract, but I doubt we see him. That leaves eight slots available (minus Rhino) to fill. If Marty Reasoner, Jack Skille, Mike Santorelli and Ryan Carter could fill four of those, that leaves four available spots. Surely there are four very good UFA’s to choose from, and I’ll be reporting on my wish list soon. Dale please make a call to Montreal and try to convince that buffos (greek slang) Jacques Martin to take Olesz off our hands. It’s the least he can do.
Defensively, Dmitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison, Keaton Ellerby and Mike Weaver are returning. If last year’s number one pick Erik Gudbranson is not on the roster, I will drive to my local Shell station, fill up the tank, drive to the Bank Atlantic Center parking lot and drink the full tank in one sitting. This kid is the future, and there is no reason that he shouldn’t be here next season. That leaves one spot, and there are some very good UFA’s out there, but I’ll make it easy. Eric Brewer. And you can name him captain too. Your welcome Dale!
Goaltending is a sticky point. Tomas Vokoun should be resigned. I think if we allow him to test free agency, we might not be able or want to match an offer. I’ve said all along that Vokie should be resigned for two years for sure, and maybe three. Hometown discount of about $4 million per. If he is allowed to walk, there’s a problem. I do have a suggestion or two, but I’ll save that for later. Scott Clemmensen is the back up and I think we can live with that for another season.
Realizing that being a Panther fan we need to be patient as the Blueprint is put into place. We aren’t challenging for the Stanley Cup next season, but it sure would be nice to make the playoffs. However, I beg you to be careful with that wish. On the other hand, how long must we wait? The quandry of being a Panther fan is, I know I should be patient, but I also want to win. What expense does that come at? Getting a team to be respectable is certainly a place to start, but until we acquire a “name” player or two, getting that respectability is going to be difficult. The biggest name that we’ve signed in the past three years is um…..Cory Stillman? No offence to Cory, but we’re going to need to make a bigger splash than that.
Winning cures everything. Attendance, better players, better attitudes, and better treatment. The joke of the NHL has been us for way too long. It makes it difficult to be a fan when year after year of futility hits you square in the
nuts face. It also makes it difficult to stick with them, but I know that I have, and so have many others. Don’t for one second think that I’m not committed cause I’m also a Hawks fan. Remember I lived there for 30 years, so it’s a hard habit to break, and I won’t. But nothing would make me happier than seeing these Cats finally get themselves in the playoffs.
Please take a look at Scott Cullen’s article on TSN regarding the rebuild. Be careful reading the comments though. Get your thick skin on.
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