Jan 03, 2009; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing David Backes (42) checks Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Kristian Huselius (20) during the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. Backes received a game misconduct on the play. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Five UFA's The Florida Panthers Must Avoid

In effort to get you interested in next season it’s time to take a peak into the future of the Florida Panthers.  As we know, the youth of this franchise is well stocked as we should see at least Jonathan Huberdeau on the team when things get underway for the 2012-2013 campaign.  We could also see players like Quinton Howden, Jacob Markstrom and maybe even Alex Petrovic if the young defenceman has a light’s out training camp.  That being said, there’s going to be a couple roster spots up for grabs as certain players will not be resigned and allowed to explore other opportunities (nice way of saying thanks but no thanks).  And while I can only dream right now of signing either Ryan Suter or Zach Parise as free agents, there are a few players that I’m hoping we steer clear of.

Here’s my list of five players to avoid:

Kristian Huselius:  I mention him first because of the fact that we’ve gone down this road before.  A talented player with soft hands, and a quick shot.  But that’s where it ends.  He’s not a player that will get his nose dirty, won’t hit, and won’t let himself be hit.  Soft is the best way to describe Krissy.  Some fans probably feel that he was treated unfairly by Mike Keenan during his younger days here in Florida.  And for most of the reasons I’ve already described, at the time he wasn’t Keenan’s type of player or mine for that matter.  However later in his career, and for a brief moment “Krissy” actually played with a touch of vinegar, and was a bit more useful.  This included one season for Keenan in Calgary.  But he eventually went back to his old ways.  Last season in Columbus, the “soft” forward was “useless” due to a lower body injury which limited him to two games.  At 34 years old he can probably help someone and do it cheaply.  Thing is, we’ve moved on from this kind of player haven’t we?

Alexander Semin:  An inigma?  Overrated?  Million dollar talent, ten cent brain/attitude?  No heart? I’d prefer not to find out as this skilled Russian player seems to perform when he feels like it, which is all wrong if you ask me.  I suppose in the right atmosphere with the proper coach and players surrounding him he could work out.  But if you aren’t excited and motivated to play with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom every night then you have a problem son.  I’m not for a reclamation project or for babysitting, and with the distractions of South Florida such as South Beach, this would be about as successful as thinking Hurricane Andrew wasn’t going to do a lot of damage.  A one year contract could be the proper incentive to get the most from him, however, I’d rather let some other organization figure that out.  I think we’re done taking chances.

 Andrew Raycroft:  The 2003-2004 season was almost a decade ago.  And when Raycroft played for the Boston Bruins that year and won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie, it would be his only shinning moment in the NHL.  I feel bad for Andrew because since that time, and that season, his career has spun into a series of mediocre to below average sessions, mostly as a backup.  While in 2006-2007 he had a fairly decent year for the Toronto Maple Leafs winning 37 games, he gave up bad goals at the wrong time.  Could be a symptom of goalies in Toronto, but the point is, Raycroft hasn’t been the same since his rookie year.  If the Panthers don’t resign Scott Clemmensen, and keep Jacob Markstrom in the AHL one more season, we’ll need a proven netminder to go along with Jose Theodore.  I honestly don’t feel that Raycroft would be the answer, No matter how cheap the price.

 Lee Stempniak:  A smallish hardworking right wing, Stempniak showed a brief moment of promise with the St. Louis Blues in 2006-2007 when he scored 27 goals in his second NHL season.  And then he signed a multi year contract, hurt himself, and never returned to that same form.  The Blues traded him to Toronto where that didn’t work out very well either, with some saying he wasn’t suited for the Eastern Conference.  Excuse?  So back he went to the West and played for the Phoenix Coyotes and had a very solid performance over 18 games in 2009-2010 scoring 14 goals and picking up 4 assists.  His next season?  81 games, 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points.  Not bad, not great, but Phoenix had higher expectations, and Lee was traded to Calgary for Daymond Langkow.  In 61 games for the Flames Stempniak scored 14 times and added 14 assists.  He had a nagging ankle injury which I’m sure affected his play.  At 29 I think he’s on the downside of his career, and feel that we have players who are just as good with upside potential, and are younger.  And their names are easier to spell.

 Brad Boyes:  Boyes put up some solid numbers in the OHL and the AHL before making it up to the big time and sticking with the Boston Bruins after one game with the San Jose Sharks.  The former first round pick put together some really good seasons with the B’s, and then was traded to the St. Louis Blues for defenceman Dennis Wideman.  Boyes had a breakout year in 2007-2008 when he scored 43 goals and followed that with 33 the next season.  He’s been on a downward spiral since then, and has spent the past two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. He’s had some knee injury issues, and last year played in 65 games, scoring only eight times.  Probably the kind of player that Jacques Martin would go after since he’d most likely come cheaply, and would love the warm weather of South Florida after spending most of his career in cold cities.  We aren’t a retirement community anymore, so that’s exactly why we should pass.

Dishonorable mention:  Sean Avery (obvious reasons), John Scott (ask any Hawks’ fan), Milan Jurcina (his -34 scares me).

I’ll be working on my five free agents that I think we should “target” soon.  That will be fun won’t it?!

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Alexandre Semin Andrew Raycroft Floirida Panthers Free Agency Jonathan Huberdeau Kristian Huselius Scott Clemmensen

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