Florida Panthers Acquire Casey Wellman. Is This The End For Someone Else?

Jan 10, 2012; St. Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Casey Wellman (17) against the San Jose Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Sharks 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

In a very quiet move on Friday, the Florida Panthers announced that they had traded a fifth round pick to the New York Rangers for young forward Casey Wellman.  Wellman is able to play either center or right wing, and this could be seen as a similar move to when the Panthers acquired Mike Santorelli from Nashville a couple years ago.  Santorelli was given a few opportunities with the Predators, and while having a couple of solid minor league seasons, wasn’t able to crack the Predators lineup on a regular basis.  With the guidance of assistant general manager Mike Santos who was familiar with Santorelli from his Nashville days, Mike had a splendid season in 2010-2011 scoring 20 goals while playing mostly on the second line.  Last season however Santo only scored nine times in 60 games.

Wellman, has played in 41 NHL games, all with the Minnesota Wild, and has 13 points.  He appeared in 14 games with Minnesota last season and had seven points (2g-7a) before he was traded to the Rangers on February 3rd.  Here’s a clip of his first NHL goal with the Wild.  His AHL statistics are solid as well, with 82 points in 99 games for Houston and Connecticut.  Listed at 6′ 0′ and 175 lbs, he’s small, but skilled.  Initially when hearing of the trade, your thought is that this may have been more of a minor move for depth and to build up the roster in San Antonio.  However after Dale Tallon’s comment, we are left to think otherwise:

“Casey is a young, highly skilled forward who adds more depth to our team,” said Tallon. “He can play both center and right wing and we feel he has the ability to play in a top line role within our team. We look forward to his contributions to our club.”

Read into that what you will, but it seems to me that Wellman will be given every opportunity to fight for a top nine spot, and this could mean the end of the line for one or both of Jack Skille and Mike Santorelli.  Santorelli as we know was placed on waivers, and not claimed.  Still property of the Panthers, Mike is going to have to have a glorious training camp come September to stick with the big club.  Otherwise he will find himself in San Antonio, or elsewhere, much to the dismay of many fans as Santorelli is a favorite of many Panther faithful.  Despite a solid season in 2010-2011, he began last year on the wrong foot or should I say shoulder, when he injured his shoulder in training camp, forcing him to miss seven games at the start of the season.  It appeared that the likeable, but always nervous forward was just not the same player the remainder of the season.  He often found himself a healthy scratch as the year wore on, looked lost at times as well as seeming to “holding his stick” too tight.  Santorelli also was not dressed for any of the seven first round playoff games against the New Jersey Devils.

Jack Skille who had a series of injuries last season of his own (shoulder) is also a player on the “bubble”, and could be affected by this transaction and become part of a numbers game.  While Skille is signed for one more season at $825,000, his production is going to have to be better, as well as consistent in order for him to find himself on the opening night roster as well.  Skille’s production of four goals and six assists in 60 games needs to improve if he’s going to get third line minutes.  Granted, he hits everything in site, which is why I sometimes refer to him as “crash”, however staying on his feet is something he needs to be better at as well.

The competition for roster spots will again be fierce, and that’s healthy and good at the same time.  Obviously the Panthers want to make the playoffs again, and have no desire to be a one and done team as they defend their first ever division championship.  Therefore, no spot for a fringe player is a given.  It’s also a well known fact that there will be a rookie or two who will be given an opportunity at the forward position in addition to the acquisition of Peter Mueller to round out the top nine forward spots.  I see Mueller on the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and either Scottie Upshall or Marcel Goc, with Wellman potentially centering the third line.  But again, going back to Dale’s comment, Wellman could be given top six minutes.

Barring any more deals, the team is fairly set as far as who is here, and who is competing for a job.  The nice thing for a change is that nothing is for sure.  The bad thing for some fans is your favorite player may not be here.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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