Yes, kids, the league's free agency party is about to commence!
There are quite a few big names out there, with Dan Briere and Chris Drury headlining the card. So who goes where? Was reading James Mirtle's CLICK HERE EH hockey blog out of Canada and he makes a great point: There are a lot of franchises out there who need to turn things around in a hurry and are going to get into a bidding war out of desperation. That's good news for Briere, Drury and the like.
Despite not making the playoffs since 2000, I don't think the Panthers are in desperation mode. JM is a pretty patient dude and thinks the splash (and quite a few dollars spent) was made when they traded for Tomas Vokoun. So don't expect any huge moves. The Panthers are going to try and improve themselves, yes, but they are not going to spend $6-plus million per season to do so. Some of these guys are going to demand that -- and get it.
Look for the Panthers to make some smaller moves, like Minnesota's Todd White and New York's Viktor Kozlov and the like. Hearing White really wants to come south, problem is years and overall dollars right now. If Florida doesn't come through, Carolina could. By having two SE rivals bidding it out, White may get a little more than he previous hoped. Neither wants to see a guy they want eight times a year on the other side of the ice.
According to my math, Florida has 15 guys under contract for 33.9 million, with six guys (including Stephen Weiss) offered qualifiers. So, figure Florida's cap around $38 million ($39-plus if Weiss signs a long-term deal) right now. If they are going up to or above $45 million, they have about $7 mil to spend.
That would buy Danny Briere for sure.
Only JM would rather spread the wealth around, fill some holes, "improve the depth.'' And that's OK too.
The free agency party officially starts at noon Sunday. Don't think being late will be all that fashionable at this party.
-- Not that the Panthers were all that interested, but the Blues resigned Keith Tkachuk today. Panthers do have to be happy he's out of Atlanta.
-- Adam Mair, one player Florida may have had interest in, is off the market too. Resigned with the Sabres on Saturday for three years.
-- Looks like that Boston/Minnesota trade finally went down. According to Bruce Brothers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Wild send disgruntled goalie Manny Fernandez east to the Bruins for Petr Kalus and a future fourth-round pick. Read the rest of the story RIGHT HERE, YA!
-- According to Craig Custance's blog at AJC.com, the Thrashers are still trying to sign Slava Kozlov before tomorrow. The Panthers would like to sign him, sure, but would be happy just to see him out of the ATL and the Southeast.
-- Don't know if anyone saw it, but JM told floridapanthers.com that the Panthers would like to have their own AHL affiliation in the near future. The Panthers currently share Rochester with Buffalo, which has seemed to work out OK for both sides. JM did say he wouldn't want the team to be in Florida because the travel and such wouldn't be beneficial for the players.