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Back to Work

Bankatlantic_2 Well, good afternoon folks. Lots going on in Pantherland these days, so I guess it’s time to come off vacation.

As much fun as I had traversing the highways and byways of the American Midwest, hockey is a callin'.

Time to answer.

So, here’s my take on what’s transpired since the draft bonanza of last week:

(*) I hear Martin Gelinas is close to agreeing to a deal with the Panthers, following in the steps of Jozef Stumpel. Both are getting two-year deals, so it appears JM likes his team so much he’s tying everyone up for at least a couple years. Sounds good to me, although it’s going to be hard to dump said deals if players don’t live up to those contracts. In the case of Stumpel and Gelinas, however, JM must feel safe in feeling that’s not going to be a problem. Sure the Panthers would love to see Stumpel be a little better in the early stages of a season, however.

(*) The salary cap is up to $50.3 million for the 2007-08 season and the Panthers are moving closer to that figure by the day. How close? Don’t know, I’m still sticking by my original figure of low-to-mid 40s. That gives JM plenty of wiggle room to make moves if/when this team is in a (GASP!) playoff run.

(*) Feel bad for Alex Auld and wish him the best. When the Panthers cut him loose, XM Radio called me to do a piece on the Panthers, and he was a hot topic. Eddie too.

The question: What kind of future do these two have? My answer: I think Alex can be a good goalie in the right situation. He played very well for the Panthers at the beginning of the season, but he had heat over his right shoulder from one Mr. Belfour. If Alex made a mistake, Senor Hall of Famer was right there to jump in – and take over.

This is not a knock on Eddie, not by any means. He’s a pro’s pro, and did what he had to do. He feels no one is better in goal than himself, so by taking over, he felt he was doing the Panthers a favor. Maybe he did, but I wonder whether Alex would still be the goalie here had Eddie never signed. Who knows.

As far as Eddie goes, I think he will play for a few more years just to shove his PT in other people’s faces. He loves the lifestyle, the money and the game. Eddie’s a gamer. If he keeps putting in the devotion to keeping that back straight, good for him.

(*) Nice move by JM to securing a backup goalie for the low, low price of $500,000. Sure Craig Anderson loves the fact that he’s got an NHL gig for the next two years.

(*) Dave Strader is gone, the Coyotes are just working out some of the kinks. Hate to see Dave go. Great guy to hang with on the road, great hockey voice. The FSN telecasts are going to miss him. I think Steve Goldstein is going to get a look because that’s who the Panthers want, but FSN has a short list of their own. We’ll see.

Expect to hear the Panthers on 790 The Ticket (which has a deal with the Herald too) in the coming season. Would think Goldie heads there too.

(*) Congrats to Mark Messier on his election into the Hockey Hall of Fame. One of the greats, to say the least. Congrats to the rest of the group as well: Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens (players); Jim Gregory (builder). This was a deep pool to choose from and is one solid graduating class.

(*) National hockey Signing Day begins Sunday. How many Five-star recruits do the Panthers ink to Letters of Intent?

Actually, Sunday kicks off free agency. I haven’t had to do recruiting stuff in quite some time, so I missed writing that kind of stuff.

Rivals.com reports four-star forward Martin Gelinas from Calgary Stampede High in Alberta is leaning Florida, but could get a push from Carolina and New York. Gelinas lists Florida as his favorite but will take his visits.

I’m hearing Florida is ready to jump in head first Sunday and make at least one to two moves. Will update when I hear some stuff.

(*) The Lightning put out their preseason sked today. Shockingly, Florida isn’t on it. The Bolts play three home games with Detroit making its only Florida visit (unless it comes here for a preseason game) in Tampa on Sept. 24. Washington and Dallas also come to Florida’s west coast to take on the Bolts.

(*) EDITED RUMOR: Now hearing the Panthers open the 2007-08 campaign Oct. 4 in Nueva York; Cats open at home Oct. 6 against those road-lovin' Devils.

(*) Vacation was good, thanks for asking. Visited Cleveland, Akron, C-Bus, Cincy and relatives in Indiana. Miamians turned Hoosier. Who could have guessed?

And thanks to Goodyear for inviting me out to the blimp hanger in Akron (it’s the huge building right next to the Rubber Bowl. That’s right. The Rubber Bowl. Home to the Akron Zips. Loaded up on Zips gear. Fired up about it, too.)Zippy

I just hope the Goodyear invite holds up until I come back to Akron again. Should be in a couple of months when the Panthers either head to C-Bus or Pittsburgh. Love that Goodyear blimp (yes, I bought an inflatable blimp when I visited Goodyear earlier in the week. They have a gift shop you know.)

Blimp

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Stumpel officially re-signed! I can't wait for "National Hockey Signing Day!"

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