Thankfully this week the Florida Panthers were surrounded by a truck load of off-the-ice news which soaked up all of the attention given to this team. I say thankfully because we certainly do not need to talk about the last game played against Boston as it was arguably one of the worst performances the Panthers have put on this season. But due to the latest news from the organization, I can’t help but feel good about the future of this franchise.
The Panthers made the headlines and certainly stole the spotlight these past days as Dale Tallon was bold during this Trade Deadline. The week started off with former Florida Panthers President Michael Yormark resigning and pursuing a career with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. The Panthers now have Rory Babich as their new President. Then came the transactions and now that they have all been completed, let’s take a look at the most important ones.
F BRANDON PIRRI –
Drafted by Dale Tallon when he was still with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, the 22 year old center has potential and can certainly be used by the Florida Panthers, especially knowing the Cats gave up a 2014 3rd round pick and a 2016 5th round pick. Pirri was projected to be a top 6 forward in Chicago and the fact that the Cats didn’t have to dispose of any current player to acquire him reinforces the idea that the Panthers came out winning on this one. As far as what he can do on the ice for the Panthers, I feel that the game in Boston was a good sample. In a game where the Panthers looked like they were handling the puck as if it was a hot potato, Pirri seemed to have poise and patience with it allowing the Panthers to control the play a little bit more. I am very excited with this trade and firmly believe he will be very useful for the Panthers.
G ROBERTO LUONGO –
He is back! I wanted to jump and scream when I got the news on my phone. An elite proven goaltender who has a good amount of hockey left and is signed until 2022. The net is secure for years to come in South Florida and if the Panthers want to win a Stanley Cup, this is a requirement. I honestly couldn’t believe the price paid for him. On paper, this trade is a straight up steal. The Panthers acquire a 4 time all-star, 2 time Olympic gold medalist in exchange for a 3rd line center (at best) and currently a .874 Save% and 3.52 GAA (in the NHL) in Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom respectively. Oh and the Vancouver Canucks will pick up 15% of Luongo’s salary as well. If you were to go by the numbers, how the Canucks said yes to this deal is beyond me. I might think Tallon was holding Canucks GM Mike Gillis hostage for this deal to happen. I guess Gillis is betting on the future of these players and I’ll get into that in the departure section of this post. Not only is Luongo an elite goalie but which player (same caliber as Luongo in their league) can you point out that refers to South Florida as their “home.” Dwyane Wade is the only one I can think of. The whole world is waiting for Lebron James to make his decision. Luongo coming down here is huge for the Panthers. He is the biggest name to come down to play for the Panthers since Pavel Bure. This should make it easier for players to want to come down and play in Sunrise. Big step forward for the Florida Panthers.
G DAN ELLIS –
Solid backup goalie that the Panthers needed to fill the void of Tim Thomas’ departure. Also very satisfied with this trade.
D MIKE WEAVER –
The Montreal Canadiens is getting a bulldog and will allow their goalies to see less rubber as the Panthers are shipping one of their best shot blockers across the border. I am sad to see him go. He is a fan favorite but at the end of the day decisions need to be made and space is going to have to be made for the prospects on defense that are coming up. Of the teams looking like they will make the playoffs this year, there are 2 players that I hope make it to the Stanley Cup finals. The Habs is one of them due to Weaver. Fifth round pick in 2015 was acquired from this trade.
G JACOB MARKSTROM –
The goalie of the future. At least that’s what we thought he would be and that’s what Mike Gillis is betting on. I am not really sad he left due to what the Panthers got in exchange but I won’t be surprised if all the talk about him becoming the elite goalie that he is projected to be comes true. The truth of the matter is though so far in the NHL he looked like he couldn’t stop a beach ball much less a puck. I honestly think that Panthers’ goalie coach Rob Tallas needs to take some blame for Marky’s lack of performance. It is beyond me how a 6’6” individual can constantly get scored on over his shoulders. It is truly mind blowing and the fact that it wasn’t addressed makes me not have much confidence in the Panther’s goalie coach. That’s why I say that maybe in Vancouver Marky will find his swag. I will admit though, I will get a huge laugh if Marky puts up numbers like the ones he did here in Florida. There is always something people find to laugh about the Panthers so watching other teams go through rough times does make me want to bring out the popcorn.
F SHAWN MATTHIAS –
This was someone that I was hoping the Panthers kept as well as Dmitry Kulikov. Luckily, and yes I do mean it, Kulikov stayed. That is a topic of discussion for a later time. However, knowing what the Panthers got in return for Matthias I would have traded him as well. Matthias has been used to secure the situation in goal for years to come. That is clearly something that needed to be done. Now, I didn’t want Matthias to be traded because I feel there is a lot of talent in him. Even though he apparently loves the month of March, Matthias really never had constant line mates with him and playing him with Krys Barch didn’t do him any favors either. What I love about him is his speed. He has decent skills but he provided a slow team with speed. See why I would be a big fan of Kulikov too? Look at what the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning can accomplish with speed. I really was already picturing a line of Quinton Howden, Shawn Matthias and Rocco Grimaldi next season. That would be hands down the fastest 4th line in the league. But I see securing the net for the next 5 years more of a priority than having a fast 4th line. The speed department is something that needs attention on this team though. Can we push for Mason Raymond this offseason?
F MARCEL GOC –
Very few times in my life did I cheer as much as I did when Goc tied game 7 of the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils. I was there. The place went bananas and so did I. And after that I don’t remember much of Goc… This season he had 23 points (11-12-23) in 62 games for the cats. I guarantee you Pirri or Vincent Trocheck can provide the Panthers with those numbers as well only they are younger. It was time for him to go. I do hope he has a great time in Pittsburgh though. Panthers picked up Pittsburgh’s 3rd round and 5th round pick in 2015.
G TIM THOMAS –
My most emotionally attached player that left the organization. When news broke out about Luongo I wished Tim Thomas could stay in net for the Panthers. Very little things are more special to this franchise than the number 34. It would have been a great tandem. As a diehard fan of this team it is truly amazing to have had seen Thomas wear the Panthers jersey. He believed in this team even though truthfully he is much better than being on a team that is the 3rd worst team in the league. I believed he was the missing piece for this franchise to get back into the playoffs. Thomas did more than what we could have asked from him. This team is in the situation it is in due to the players in front of him not because of him. I am a proud owner of a Panthers Tim Thomas shirt and forever will be. He is dearly missed. So Tim Thomas, who won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins, played his last game as a Panther in Boston. He now is a member of the Dallas Stars, the same team he played against in his first game as a Panther. If he suits up for Dallas in their next game, he will be looking at Jacob Markstrom sitting at the opposing team’s bench. Really wished Thomas could have stayed and retired as a Panther. He is the other player I want to see go to the Stanley Cup final this year. He deserves it. Dallas Stars vs Montreal Canadiens.