As you probably all have heard, the NHL and NHLPA agreed yesterday to the framework of a deal that, if passed by both sides, would bring the lockout to an end. Chances are the deal will be approved and if and when it is, we will have hockey after a short training camp. To those of us used to being disappointed by the NHL, we are dealing with a pretty big IF. There is still an infinitesimal chance the deal could fall apart. We as hockey fans are like the abused side of a long troubled relationship. Any trust we may have had has long gone out the window. When our spouse promises they are going to change, quit drinking, be more committed to the relationship, etc. we want to believe its true, we will deceive ourselves into thinking its true but we won’t actually truly believe it until we see it with our own eyes. So for all us hockey fans who feel like scorned boyfriends/girlfriends, we can have cautious optimism but we have been disappointed too many times before so until we see that puck drop on opening day we will remain skeptical. Until that time however, lets talk some hockey! And more importantly, lets talk some Florida Panthers hockey!
The Lockout was not the only news coming out of the NHL this offseason. Before the old CBA expired we witnessed a pretty standard free-agency period with some Panthers signing elsewhere and GM Dale Tallon making some moves of his own to improve the team. Before we go more in-depth with team and season previews, I thought this intermediate time, (post-lockout but pre-season) would be a perfect time to take a look back at this summers moves and talk about who the new guys will be on this years team and who the players are that will no longer be wearing the Panthers Red.
Peter Mueller (C):
Here we have a player that GM Dale Tallon brought in with excellent low-risk/high-reward potential. Much like the signing of Tomas Fleischmann a year ago from the Colorado Avalanche, Mueller is a talented player with injury troubles that the Avalanche did not deem worth the risk thus allowing the Panthers to scoop him up in free agency. Mueller has immense potential but unfortunately his last couple of seasons have been marred by concussions. Mueller was the 8th overall draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2006 draft. As a rookie he scored 22 goals while playing in 81 games (source). Since then, staying healthy has been a problem and last season with the Avalanche he only played in 32 games scoring 7 goals while adding 9 assists. (Source)
The Panthers figure Mueller was worth taking a flyer on this year giving the 24 year old a one-year deal worth $1.7 million. They also retain his rights for the 2013-14 season. According to Mueller himself, he is injury free and ready to go this season, “As I spoke to Dale, he told me what he’s expecting out of me, and I’m expecting a lot out of myself. I’m coming in with a great attitude. I’m ready to rock and roll this coming season.” (Source)
It is looking like the Panthers may try to use Mueller on the power play while putting him on a line with Scottie Upshall and Jonathan Huberdeau. (Source) If that turns out to be the case then the Mueller-Huberdeau-Upshall line could be something special. At the very least they would be able to go toe-to-toe with any other line in the NHL in terms of high draft potential. All three would have been taken in the top ten of their respective drafts with Huberdeau going 3rd in 2011 and Upshall going 6th way back in the 2002 draft.
Filip Kuba (D):
With the team not re-signing Jason Garrison, they felt they needed to add at least one veteran defender to help guide what should be a very green defensive core this season. Enter Filip Kuba. Returning to the team that drafted him, Kuba was signed to a two-year deal worth $4 million per season. (Source) The 36-year-old defender logged 6 goals and 26 assists for 32 points last season for the Ottawa Senators while playing opposite the high scoring Erik Karlsson. (Source)
Here is what Dale Talon had to say about the signing: “Filip is an experienced player who adds further depth to our blue line. He is a big, strong and responsible, shutdown defenseman who averaged more than 23 minutes of ice time per-game last season. We are confident that he will fit very well into our top six and help our power play. We look forward to his contributions to our team.” (Source)
We can take from these comments that the Panthers are expecting Kuba to be a steadying presence in their defense along with Brian Campbell. We can look for smart two-way play with an emphasis on the defensive end and the occasional offensive contributions especially on the power play.
George Parros (RW):
Not much needs to be said about Parros that cannot be illustrated by this clip. Aside from the announcer doing his best Howard Cosell “Down Goes Frazier!”
impression, this dismantling of Riley Cotte shows just what the Panthers will be getting with Parros. The man is a fighter. In a time when the league is questioning the role these hulking big men have in the league, and rightfully so, Parros is still a valuable commodity any team would love to have. The Panthers signed the 33 year-old to a two-year deal at just under one million per year. Parros has 33 career points in 413 games to go along with 950 penalty minutes, (source) so yea, you kind of know what you are getting with Parros. I for one will be excitedly anticipating this mans debut for the Panthers, brining with him his fantastic mustache and his iron fists.
Jonathan Huberdeau and company:
While we know the Panthers will feature some young talent on this year’s team, who exactly depends on performances in training camp and who GM Dale Tallon feels is ready for the big time. It can almost assuredly be said that Huberdeau will make the team but which other rookies will make the team remains to be seen. I think the forwards with the best shots are Quinton Howden and Drew Shore both playing for the Panthers AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage. We could also see San Antonio Rampage defenders Colby Robak and Alex Petrovic at some point this season.
So there you have it. A quick introduction to the new players we can expect to see this year for the Florida Panthers. Dale Tallon has done a good job of finding experience veterans who can help the team transition to their young players while still competing for the Cup. Now lets take a look at whom we will no longer be seeing this season.
Jason Garrison (D): (Vancouver Canucks)
After a couple years developing with the Panthers, Garrison broke out last season with 16 goals and 17 assists to go along with solid defensive play. He became a fan favorite largely due to his newly developed rocket of a slap shot from the point. His 16 goals were the third highest amongst NHL defensemen last season. (Source)
Garrison signed with the Canucks after he and the Panthers could not reach an agreement. His deal with the Canucks pays him $4.6 million per season over six years (source). The question asked by many Panthers fans has been, how could the Panthers pass on Garrison but then go ahead and sign Kuba for only $600,000 less per year. I believe the answer lies in the length of each contract. Kuba’s deal is only for two seasons; compared to Garrison’s six, and I believe Tallon does not want to be hindered by large long-term contracts that could prevent some of the younger Panthers defensemen from making their mark with the team. In other words Kuba’s two year deal will serve as a better bridge for the future than a deal with Garrison for six years. Although it is sad to see him go, the Panthers should be able to make up his offensive production in other areas of the team and should be just fine moving forward without Garrison.
Mikael Samuelsson (RW): (Detroit Red Wings)
Samuelsson became an unrestricted free agent this off-season and signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings at $3,000,000 per year. Samuelsson had a solid season for the Cats playing in 48 games with a 13G-15A-28Pts line. Samuelsson was great to watch because of his stick skills, smart play and goals like this. At 36 years of age Samuelsson showed he could still produce but he just was not in the Panthers plans for the future.
Wojtek Wolski (LW): (Washington Capitals)
Wolski was a trade deadline addition to the Panthers last year helping them out down the stretch with flashes of brilliant skill to go along with long cold stretches. Wolski made some contributions for the Panthers playing in 22 games tallying 4 goals and 5 assists. Always known more for his potential and shootout prowess than any actual production, there will not be any tears shed over Wolski leaving. He signed a one-year deal with the division rival Capitals for $600,000. (Source)
John Madden (C): Retired
Madden was another late season addition to the Panthers. He played in 31 games and scored 3 goals. (Source) I will remember him most for the goal he almost scored against Martin Brodeur in overtime of Game 7 in last year’s playoffs. Madden added a veteran presence to the team and has lead an exemplary NHL career. He retired at the end of the season and took a recruiting position with the Montreal Canadiens. (Source)
Krys Barch (RW): New Jersey Devils
Barch was brought in early on in the 2011-2012 season from the Dallas Stars to provide some toughness at the bottom of the Panthers roster. He did just that, logging 91 PIM while contributing 2 goals and 3 assists in 41 games. Barch signed with the Devils for two years at $750,000 per year. With the Panthers adding Parros in the offseason they no longer had a need for Krys Barch.
Well I think that’s enough of Who’s In, Who’s Out, hopefully it helps paint a clearer picture of what the team will look like this season. Overall the moves made this offseason may not have been splashy but they are true to Dale Tallon’s plan and it is refreshing to have a GM who actually has a discernible plan for a change.
Stay tuned to The Rat Trick as we will continue our updates as more information regarding the season becomes available.