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28 posts from June 2007

June 30, 2007

Free Agent Dance Party!

Get ready for a lot of action on the NHL dance card in the coming hours.

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. 

June 29, 2007

Return of the Scouts?

ScoutsHere we go again.

Reports out of Canada and Nashville have surfaced that current Preds owner Craig Leipold is refusing to sell the team to Jim Balsillie, but instead will sell it for a $50 million discount to a California chap who plans to take the team west to Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas).

Say what you will about Gary Bettman, but he seems to get his way when he wants to, apparently even spinning around a guy certain to be an ex-owner to do things Gary's way. And Gary's way is promoting the NHL in the United States, not in Canada so much. Balsillie, you see, wanted to move the Preds to Hamilton, Ontario. He even sold a boatload of tickets before anything was even close to being official.

Now, before anyone jumps too far ahead, the Kansas City Scouts are still more dream than reality. The franchise still has a valid lease in Nashville that it can break after this coming season only if certain qualifiers are met. The main one is if the team averages 14,000 per game, the lease cannot be broken unless the city says OK (and that ain't going to happen).

The question begs why Bettman would be against the team going to Hamilton. The problem isn't support; the Hamilton Pred-Cats would have plenty of that, no one in the NHL offices could argue.

Bettman's problems start with Balsillie himself. Dude is one heck of a business man and isn't going to jump into Bettman's camp if he becomes an owner. By keeping Balsillie out of the fraternity, Bettman avoids a major headache -- and a guy who probably will do what he wants when he wants to.

Bettman also doesn't want to lose a U.S. market. By trading Nashville for K.C., the NHL can still negotiate national U.S. sponsorship -- and TV -- deals by touting 22 major U.S. markets (New York and L.A. have two teams). The NHL is making its money in Canada whether there's a team in Hamilton or not. Losing a U.S. market, on the other hand, will sting. And hard.

Also, moving the team to Kansas City helps a number of Bettman's owners. The brand-spankin-new arena in K.C. is managed by a group headed by L.A. Kings' owner Philip Anschutz. So there's one owner helped. The other two reside in Toronto and Buffalo, franchises that would be affected by putting another team in southern Ontario.

If this new Nashville deal goes down, don't expect Balsillie (whose company made -- but did not invent the technology to -- the Blackberry) to sit down quietly. If he finds out the NHL was behind this deal, there could be lawsuits. And bet he'll be looking for another soft NHL market in which to carve out the franchise and move it north. South Florida is safe for now, but for how long?

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.)


June 27, 2007

Be Back Soon

Moose A couple of you all have emailed, wondering why I haven't commented on Florida's recent post-draft moves.

Well, I am on vacation in the midwest.

Will post soon about my trips (it involves a visit to the world-renowned World of Rubber at Goodyear's world headquarters in Akron, Ohio. It's as fun as it sounds. Very worldly.)

June 23, 2007

Columbus: Day 2

BrutusFolks here in Columbus are used to finishing second, be it in football or basketball. So it's only fitting that the NHL Draft is a two-day affair, one that hopefully will crawl to a completion sometime before Sunday.

Having a great time in C-Bus, and I hate to take cheap shots at the Buckeyes, but whatever. There are plenty of great places to eat and drink around the arena area, so if you're ever driving through stop on in for a visit. They'll welcome you with open arms.

Unless, of course, you are from Florida and are wearing some combination of orange and blue (not that I would ever, under any circumstance, ever wear that combo nor advise anyone to do so).

Now, onto the draft:

It's 9:25 a.m. and your friendly, neighborhood sports writer is hard at work. Had some breakfast, a cup of tea and am ready to roll, baby!

As for the Panthers, they'll pick tenth here in the second round (40th overall) and that will probably do it until the third. I'm hearing Florida will not use the 47th overall pick -- the one acquired in the Chris Gratton trade to Tampa Bay last week -- and instead save it until next year. Florida will have two second rounders next year, giving up one to Nashville as part of the Tomas Vokoun deal. Nashville is using Florida's former pick (58th) that was grabbed from Detroit for Todd Bertuzzi.

It's possible Florida will have three picks in which to chose in the second round next year because the Cats get another from Detroit if it resigns Big Bad Bert (sorry, no pictures today).

OK, here you go: Bertagain

-- The Panthers just made their second pick of the draft, grabbing winger Michal Repik from the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Repik is a teammate of Panthers prospect Kenndal McArdle at Vancouver, and also has a blonde mohawk.

As Mike Russo says, he'll fit right in with Olli Jokinen (didn't have the heart to tell Mike that Olli got rid of the mohawk. To everyone's chagrin.)

Apparently this kid is pretty darned good. Helped the Giants win the prestigious Memorial Cup by being Van's leading postseason scorer. Even got the game-winner in the championship game.

And guess who happened to be scouting the Memorial Cup in person? Yep, one Jacques Martin.

-- In the third round, Florida selects forward Evgeni Dadonov from Chelyabinsk, Russia. Word from Central Scouting is such: A skilled forward with excellent agility and quickness; can good hands and can handle the puck in traffic; won Gold with Russia at Under-18s; Final ranking as 10th best European skater.

-- It's 11:31 a.m. EST and Minnesota hasn't unloaded bitter-pill Manny Fernandez yet. Apparently, Boston offered a first and second round pick plus P.J. Axelsson and the deal was about to go down before the Bruins got smart and pulled the offer. Let's just say Fernandez's price has dropped considerably since. Maybe Boston can go after Toronto's Andrew Raycroft? Ha!


-- Lots to read on the World Wide Web this day, and to help you, the loyal On Frozen Pond reader, I'm linking up some of the best stories I read about the draft and specifically the Florida Panthers. If you notice all the stories linked are from the Miami Herald and were written by me, well, you're pretty sharp there.

My version of Vokoun and Peace: YOU LIKA DA GOALIE?

My notebook on the draft pick and a little Nate Horton THEY HAVE TIM HORTONS IN COLUMBUS!

My take on the Florida goalie situation THANKS FOR ALL THE LAUGHS EDDIE

My take on Florida's past draft history IT'S A CIRCUS OVER THERE

-- OK there was more on this subject for sure. Here's John Glennon's take from the Nashville Tennessean NASHVILLE'S A HONKY TONK TOWN

Eric Duhatschek writes in the Globe and Mail that JM makes the right move a year after Florida made the wrong one GLOBE TROTTERS

-- Some have asked 'G, why didn't you deliver photos of Columbus' new jerseys as promised? Is it because you are lazy, just don't care or is it a combination of both? By the way, keep up the good work.'

The reason I didn't post the Blue Jackets new look is because their new look is their old look. They didn't change a whole lot, in fact, to the naked eye (heh, said naked) they look pretty much like last year's jerseys. Trimmer, more water resistant, sure. But they look the same. Visit their website if you want and see for yourself.

-- In my effort to give you loyal readers a taste of all things Panthers, I had a friend send me a photo of last night's party at the Hard Rock. Sure, I wasn't there, and chances are neither were you. But this pic really makes you feel like you were, no? Pantherparty

June 22, 2007

More News from C-Bus

Dscn0583 Just spoke to JM and Nashville GM David Poile. Obviously the Panthers are ecstatic with the acquisition of Tomas Vokoun, JM saying he's one of the top five goalies in the league.

Will update with quotes eventually.

Also, JM says the Eddie Belfour Era in South Florida is now over. JM says Eddie will not be invited back, and the team will probably go with Alex Auld or Craig Anderson as Vokoun's backup. Both are restricted free agents and the Panthers need to qualify one or both.

Also, the league rejected Nathan Horton's contract because of technical language involving his no-trade clause. The Panthers say this is no big deal, they are rewriting the contract and say they will have it signed and refiled by tonight. Horton's no-trade will activate in at 2010 after he has seven accrued seasons. If he were to sit out a season, the no-trade wouldn't kick in until he reaches that seven season plateau.

-- Shoutout to all the folks at the Hard Rock enjoying the Panthers party. Sounds like it's a good time with everyone in a pretty good mood. Wonder why?

A New Goalie

Tomas The Panthers have apparently swung a deal to grab Nashville All-Star Tomas Vokoun.

Still wading through the rumors, but this can't be anything but good for the Panthers. The big price was next year's first round pick, but whatever.

You lose Roberto, you gain Vokoun. Not too shabby.

Sure, the price was steep, but it was the right move to make. You have to think JM did quite a nice job with this one. He didn't panic, stayed cool throughout the deal -- and didn't get desperate and go to Minnesota for Manny Fernandez.

As always, post your comments below. As bad as last year's draft was for the Panthers, this one suddenly just perked up.

Here's what the Cats give up: A first round pick in 2008; a second round pick tomorrow and a secondary second-round pick either tomorrow or in 2008. Vokoun is signed for the next four seasons, making $5.5 million in 2007-08 with an escalating contract that maxes at $6.3 mil in 2010-11.

Draft Day, Baby

Dscn0582 The 2007 NHL Draft is about to kick off here in beautiful Columbus and the Blue Jackets' cool new arena.

There should be a lot of news coming out of here as the day goes on, and I'll be updating this post throughout the day/evening.

I'll also be posting some photos here, such as the one at left. I'm not a professional photographer, although since The Herald is paying me to be here and I am taking pictures, maybe I am. So there you have it. Lets see how this goes.

Since this will be the post that gets updated, if you want to see the newest info, just hit your refresh button. It may not be as refreshing as a dip in the pool after a round of golf, but it'll have to do.

-- Former Florida winger Gary Roberts is sticking around in Pittsburgh, so says Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette. Roberts has signed a one-year deal with the Pens for $2.6 million (he made $2.25 last year). Mark Recchi also resigned with the team. Read Dave's stuff here: PITTSBURGH AIN'T NO CLEVELAND BUT IT'S OK

Slim Pickins

PlateIf the Panthers are going to make a deal for a goaltender at this year's draft, time seems to be running out.

Friday, Toronto swung a deal with San Jose, acquiring Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell for a bunch of draft picks. Florida had been talking to the Sharks about Toskala, but Florida wasn't going to give up 21-year-old forward Rostislav Olesz.

Florida could have matched Toronto's package of picks (this year's first and second, a fourth in 2009) but don't know if they wanted to or even were offered the same deal.

So, who's left? Well, Toronto may now be shopping former rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft (whom it acquired at last year's draft from Boston). Raycroft is signed for the next two seasons for just over $2 mil per, so he's not real expensive nor would he be a drag on the Maple Leaves payroll. Don't know if they shop him just yet or not.

Word on the street is Boston is trying to swing a deal with Minnysota for Manny Fernandez (not the former Miami Dolphin) but that deal hasn't been done yet.

Florida could still swing a deal with Nashville/Hamilton for one of its two goalies. Florida could also deal with the Cup champ Ducks for Ilya Bryzgalov who is signed through next season and then can walk free. If Anaheim wants too much for Bryzgalov, the Panthers might walk away just because of that. Bryzgalov's price ($1.4) is right, but Florida's been burned by free agents to be in the past and may not want to walk down that road again.

Or the Panthers could just stand pat, give Ed Belfour a little more money and wait until next year.

-- For those who like new jerseys (or just, say, New Jersey) this is for you. Bruins also came out with new sweater as seen below. Tonight, the Jackets unveil their new look, will have that as well (brought the digital camera this trip. Yep. Getting serious.)

Capsjersey Bruinsjersey

June 21, 2007

Big Doins in Pantherland

PanthersBusy day for your friendly neighborhood hockey writer for sure.

Coming to you live from Columbus, Ohio, home to the Ohio State Buckeyes and their self-proclaimed 'Best Damn Band in the Land.' Now I know I won't be dotting any I's today, but I do have some news.

First, spoke to Nathan Horton not too long ago and to say the dude is stoked about his new contract (six years, $24 mil) would be an understatement. Nathan was downright giddy when we spoke to him via speakerphone today, and seems to have really turned a corner as far as his maturity as a hockey player goes.

As I wrote earlier, I ran into Nathan not too long ago at a sandwich shop in Sunrise. He had just completed a workout and looks to be in fantastic shape. JM certainly has noticed the extra dedication Nathan has made.

"He's doing everything we've asked,'' JM said.

Says Nathan: "I'm really excited. This is where I want to be, this is where I want to play. It's great to get to be a part of this organization. I want to be here as long as I can.''

More, much more obviously, in tomorrow's Miami Herald.

-- JM says getting Stephen Weiss inked to a long-term deal is taking longer than he had hoped, and admitted they are just at the beginning stages. Didn't get the feeling that anyone is too worried about a deal getting done.

-- JM says he has had conversations with different teams -- most notably Nashville -- about potential trades for goaltending help. He did say, again, that they could just resign Ed Belfour and Alex Auld and be done with things if nothing comes. JM said he has no interest -- none -- in Ottawa backup and former Duck and Hurricane Martin Gerber. JM and the Panthers also have little interest in the recently bought out Alexei Yashin (who played for JM in Ottawa).

Obviously Jean-Sebastien Giguere is no longer an option since he resigned with the Ducks. His backup may be, however. The Anaheim braintrust is meeting right next to the Panthers inside their Columbus hotel.

-- The team's coaching staff is going to have a different look next year. JM confirmed Thursday that veteran assistant coach George Kingston will not return. JM says the two talked about it last season, and JM says the team wants to go in a different direction. JM has a ton of respect for George, and I don't think this move came hastily. Sure JM didn't want to have that conversation.

JM says he has a list of possible replacements, although he hasn't begun the interview process with anyone yet.

-- Video coach Pierre Groulx is moving up in the world, taking over as the team's new goaltending coach. Pierre is a good, young mind and is being rewarded not only for his hard work over the years, but for his loyalty to JM. The two worked together in Ottawa, and JM brought Pierre south. Seems to have worked out for him.

Former goalie coach Phil Myre remains in the organization, only he'll be concentrating on his duties as a pro scout. Myre had been splitting his responsibilities.

-- JM wouldn't confirm the futures of other folks inside the organization once their contracts expire, most notably Jack Birch (director of hockey operations) and Matt Loughran (director of hockey administration). JM said decisions on those positions will be made next week, although word is both are  moving on. It seems to be an amicable divorce. I will miss both guys. Good people.

-- The team also recently fired the guy/gal who had served as Stanley C. Panther for almost the past decade. I will not release his/her name because I know he didn't like people knowing the identity of the person behind the mask. It's a mascot thing.

Nate Signs On

NathanThe Panthers made a bit of a splash at the NHL Draft in Columbus on Thursday as reports surfaced that winger Nathan Horton signed a six-year deal with the team.

As of lunchtime Thursday, the Panthers had no comment. We'll be talking to Jacques later in the afternoon.

According to TSN's' Bob MacKenzie, sources say the six-year deal is worth $24 million.

Up next: Stephen Weiss.

June 20, 2007

New Jersey

JerseyAs most know, NHL teams will be sporting a new look next season as Reebok redoes all the uniforms for the league's 30 teams.

The Panthers will get a new look as well.

Only it'll be a while before anyone gets to see the new look publicly.

I'm being told the Panthers will not unveil their new jerseys at this weekend's draft in Columbus as some fans had hoped. Posting a potential new look for the Canucks stirred up quite a few of you as my email in-box filled up quite a bit because of this subject.

From what I'm hearing, only a few teams -- the host Blue Jackets, Washington and perhaps Boston -- will be unveiling a new jersey this weekend. Everyone else must wait. The Panthers have said not much is changing on the uniforms, and the last official word came from Michael Yormark at the All-Star Game in Dallas. Here's what I wrote way back then:

The Panthers will also have a new look next season, the first real update since the team’s inception in 1993. Like each team in the league, Florida will only have two jerseys next year because of the Reebok redesign. The Panthers will get rid of their original red jersey at least for the time being.

“We’ve made changes,’’ Yormark said. “It’s a much more contemporary look. The look is going to be different from what we have now. We’re pretty excited about it.’’

The away jersey will still be white, but red will be the predominant secondary color; the home jersey remains blue, with yellow as the main accent. Yormark says horizontal stripes are out and vertical stripes are in. The leaping Panther logo on the chest will be larger and more dynamic.

Word is, Florida will likely not unveil its new jersey design until September when Reebok has had a chance to supply the team with them.

Swap Meet

SwapshopCHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sitting here in the lovely Charlotte-Douglas International Airport terminal en route to the NHL Draft in the great state of Ohio. It's in Columbus, to be exact.

And your pal G is pretty excited.

Sure, I'm excited not only to visit Columbus and get to see the Indians play Monday night in C-Town, but I'm also fired up to see what this weekend may bring. The draft is usually a fun time for a hockey writer. Not the actual draft wherein young prospects few of us [the gathered media] have ever heard of much less seen are paraded out wearing the sweater of a team that just picked them, telling us how they can't wait to try and make an impact for said team despite the probability said player may never make it past the AHL*.


No, the fun comes in the trades that are on the horizon. You never know if this is going to be an active trading draft (like last year) or if it's going to be a little slow. I'm banking on the former. I think there is going to be plenty of wheeling and dealing -- including something involving the Panthers -- going down in Buckeye Country.

I just hope Maurice Clarett is there. Haven't talked to him since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Good kid.

(*) Actually I enjoy talking to these young players. They usually have great things to say on draft day because this is a huge day for them. They are starting a new chapter of their lives, and I get to share that with them. And that's cool.

-- Rumors are Doug MacLean is going to make an appearance at the draft. Dude built the Blue Jackets franchise so he should. Don't know if Ohio State coach Jim Tressel will make a cameo (like he did in the NBA Finals), but if he does, dude better be wearing a sweater vest. Expect nothing less.

-- Speaking of Dougie Mac, he has confirmed he will participate in the Panthers 1996 reunion next month. No word on whether Jeff Rimer is coming back or not.

-- Another player the Panthers had interest in is off the market as of Wednesday. According to reports in Canada, Carolina's Scott Walker resigned with the Canes for three years and $7.5 million. Walker had 21 goals and 30 assists for Caroliner last year.

-- Special props to my new wireless card. This is the first blog item filed from an airport terminal with the new card (bought in May). Hopefully this will keep us connected throughout the upcoming season. Have already given the card a nickname: The Cingular BlogMaster 6000.

June 19, 2007

Cool New Look

Vancouver_2Saw this on another site, but this is the rumored new jersey for the Vancouver Canucks.

So, the Canucks have one of the best goalies in the league and now  have the coolest look too?

Post your thoughts on the new Vancouver jersey and whether you like the addition of 'Johnny Canuck' to the sweater below.

-- There's some news in Pantherland today as the team announced  Bill O'Flaherty  is the team's new director of pro scouting.

Here's the release info:

O’Flaherty will work closely with Martin and Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton and oversee all aspects of the club’s professional scouting.


Prior to joining the Panthers, O’Flaherty, 59, spent the 2006-07 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a professional scout. Prior to the Penguins, O’Flaherty served as the Director of Player Personnel for the Los Angeles Kings from 1997-2006. With the Kings, O’Flaherty oversaw the club’s minor league operations and assisted in all facets of hockey operations.  


“We are pleased to have hired someone with the experience and stature of Bill O’Flaherty as our Director of Pro Scouting, “Martin said. “Bill has been involved in hockey for over 30 years and will play a key role in evaluating talent at the professional level.”


A Toronto, Ontario native, O’Flaherty graduated from Clarkson University in 1971 and immediately began working in the school’s athletic department. He spent 11 seasons as the school’s Athletic Director (1986-97) and served as the Golden Knights head coach for six seasons, posting a 134-59-12 record. O’Flaherty was awarded the Spencer R. Penrose Memorial Trophy as the University Division I Coach of the Year in 1981.


"I'm very excited about this opportunity to join the Florida Panthers organization,” O’Flaherty said. “With the core nucleus of excellent young players and quality veterans, I could not pass up the chance to help further the success of this franchise.”

June 18, 2007

Fire Sale!

MarlinsThe future of the Nashville Predators is uncertain, so much so the team has begun spinning off some assets.

According to TSN, the Preds sent Philadelphia the negotiating rights to upcoming free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. The Panthers were thought to have interest in Hartnell, but no longer: according to TSN, but players signed long-term deals with the Flyers.

Hartnell signed a six-year deal worth $25.2 million. Timmonen got six years and $37.8 million.

In exchange for being able to hit the free agent market two weeks before everyone else, Philly returned the first-round pick Nashville traded to the Flyers for Peter Forsberg last season.

Who's next for Nashville? The Preds have two good goalies in Tomas Vokoun (30-years-old, made $2.3 million last year) and Chris Mason (31, made $1.25 million and filled in pretty well for Vokoun this past season).

Is one of these guys in play for a trade? Got to believe they are. Think the Panthers are interested? Would have to make that assumption.

If Nashville's sale to Jim Balsillie goes through, payroll isn't going to be a problem although a winning team might mean a spike in ticket sales and hurt Balsillie moving the team to Canada. Kind of like in Major League. Charliesheen_2 If the deal falls through, the payroll is going to be slashed to make up for past losses. Either way, doesn't look like the Preds are going to spend a lot of money next year.

It's a Small World

Smallworld So, lets get something straight: John Muckler has been fired as GM of the Ottawa Senators, with coach Bryan Murray being promoted to fill the position.

That means the former coach and GM of the Panthers is now GM of the Ottawa Senators.

And Jacques Martin, former coach of the Senators, currently serves as coach and GM of the Panthers.

Yes, it's a small world after all. In the NHL, anyway.

-- Here's a juicy nugget courtesy of our pal Bruce Garrioch at the Ottawa Sun. According to Bruce, one reason Muckler got fired was because Martin didn't send Gary Roberts to the Senators at the trade deadline.

Writes Bruce: Sources say a key factor in Muckler's demise was the inability to get winger Gary Roberts from Florida at the trade deadline in March -- defying specific instructions from Melnyk to do so.

In the end, the Senators refused to give up the No. 1 pick in what's considered a "weak" 2007 draft and instead picked up Oleg Saprykin from the Phoenix Coyotes for a second-round pick in 2008.

An NHL source said yesterday Melnyk summoned Muckler to a meeting in New York a few days after the trade deadline. Muckler was asked to explain why the club didn't get Roberts and "was put on notice then."

Here's the link: OTTAWA SUN HERE

Muckler, one might remember, is the guy who fired Martin after the 2004 season.

Martin has vehemently denied thoughts that he wouldn't trade with the Senators and Muckler. There had been rumors that the Sens made a nice offer to Mike Keenan and the Panthers for Roberto Luongo that wasn't accepted (although that probably had more to do with Todd Bertuzzi coming to SoFla than it had anything to do with the Sens.)

When Martin sent Roberts to Pittsburgh instead of accepting Ottawa's offer, Keenan (who had been getting grilled on TSN for the Luongo deal) suggested there was no way Martin would swing a deal with the Sens because he didn't want to help them out in any way.

Here's what I wrote on Feb. 27:

Martin denied a suggestion from former Panthers general manager Mike Keenan on Canada’s TSN that Martin wouldn’t deal with Ottawa in a potential trade for Gary Roberts because of his past with that organization.

“That’s not true at all,’’ said Martin, fired as coach by Ottawa after the 2004 season. He replaced the fired Keenan as Florida’s GM prior to the start of this season.

“You have to keep in mind that you have to do what’s best for the organization. I’ve always had a good relationship with Ottawa, so has [assistant GM] Randy Sexton. What we wanted out of Ottawa didn’t materialize. There’s no grudge there. We had a lot of conversations with them.’’

Roberts had asked to be traded to Ottawa, Toronto or Buffalo, but eventually lifted his no-trade clause to go to Pittsburgh. Martin said Ottawa and Toronto were offered to match Pittsburgh’s deal. Both declined.

-- With BM now the GM of the Senators, Ottawa is now looking for a new coach. Who wants to bet Terry Murray has already been contacted?

-- Speaking of Bertuzzi, Detroit's Chris Chelios told a radio station in Michigan that he expects Todd Bertuzzi to resign with the Red Wings, and the only hold up -- as surprising as this sounds -- is money.

The Red Wings don't want to pay Big Bert (no pics today, sorry) anything near the $5.3 million he made last year. If Bertuzzi does resign with the Wings, Florida gets Detroit's second round pick in next year's draft.

OK, here: Bert3

June 14, 2007

Gratton's a Goner

GrattonTried to post this yesterday while driving to Georgia, but lost my signal on the wireless card before it went through. So that's why it's a day late. OK? OK!

The Panthers swung a deal tonight and traded veteran center Chris Gratton to Tampa Bay. While I hate to see Chris go, I sure am not surprised. JM confirmed he tried swinging a deal with the Lightning at last season's trade deadline, only decided he didn't want to disrupt the team's dynamic too much as he felt the team still had a chance to make the post season.

Chris spent a good part of last season in Jim's doghouse, but despite that, I thought he would be back this year because at $1.5 million, he still does a lot of good things. Obviously the Lightning agree with me as Chris returns there for a third go-round. "This is good for Chris,'' JM told me. "He's going somewhere where he's wanted.''

Obviously he wasn't wanted here. JM also indicated that Jozef Stumpel will most likely return although he seemed to hedge on Martin Gelinas (JM thinks Marty is going to play next season, he's just not sure it's going to be in SoFla).

I'm going to miss Chris because he was a cool guy with a personality. He spoke his mind, perhaps one reason why he got into trouble with JM sometimes. Chris has always had to live up to the potential folks saw in him when he was drafted third overall in 1993 by the Bolts, and while he hasn't done so, that doesn't mean he hasn't had a career to be proud of -- and one many players in the league would love to have had.

Feel free to leave any comments on this deal, one that seems to have worked out in Florida's favor. The Panthers not only shed $1.5 million in salary, but they get a second round pick in return. Not bad.

As Chris would always say, thanks guys.

Panthers vs. Keenan

Keenansun Well, now it's official: Mike Keenan is back in the NHL (he's aiming to hit all 30 franchises) as the new coach of the Calgary Flames.

Mike had a lot of good things to say at his press conference today at the Saddledome, but that was expected. Mike Keenan never saw a press conference he didn't like. He's never met a microphone he didn't fall in love with.

This isn't official, but Keenan's first official game as coach of the Flames should come Sept. 16 at the Saddledome against the Panthers. Florida hasn't announced its preseason schedule yet, but we do know they are going to play the Flames on Sept. 18 in Saskatoon. Want tickets? Click here: WHAT'S A CREDIT UNION CENTRE?

I'm hearing the Panthers are going to play on Sunday in Calgary (the 16th), then move up the road to Edmonton for a date with the Oilers on Sept. 17 before heading to Saskatoon.

-- PS: According to a Swedish newspaper, Kristian Huselius says he and Keenan can co-exist in Calgary next season.

-- Speaking of fun, TicketMaster is said to be taking deposits in Hamilton, Ontario, for the expected relocation of the Nashville Predators in time for the 2008-09 season. So, instead of getting to party in Music City, we get to go to Hamilton. Go Tiger-Cats.

Oh Boy

KeenanWas driving north on I-75 just about to pass into the great state of Georgia Wednesday night when I got a phone call.

"Are you sitting down,'' my friend (we'll call him Steve) asks. "Why yes," I reply. "I'm driving.''

Before Steve asks where I'm at, he explodes with the news that Canada's TSN is reporting the Mike Keenan is getting back into the NHL. Sources (or just simply, Mike Keenan) told TSN that Keenan is going to be the next coach of the Calgary Flames.

My call: Good for the Flames. This is a team that needs a stiff kick to the rear, and Mike Keenan might just be the guy to do it. Sure, no one expects him to stay there forever but expect his time in Calgary to be colorful. That's what sources are telling me, anyway.

As far as coaching goes, Keenan is big on getting veteran guys to play his way. Problem is, if he starts rubbing people the wrong way and loses GM Darryl Sutter, there's the door. Keenan has won and lost his share of power struggles, and has to know he isn't going to win one with Sutter. But the two have a long history together, so one has to think Darryl knows what he's getting in Keenan. If the underachieving Flames play well, this is going to be fun. Keenan, with a winning team, is going to be a hit in Calgary.

And guess who the Panthers open the preseason against? Yup, Mike Keenan's Calgary Flames.

And guess which division visits Sunrise this year? Yup, the Northwest.

That means a visit by not only Iron Mike, Jarome Iginla and the Flames, but Roberto Luongo and Vancouver's Fighting Luongos as well. Hope the NHL spreads those two out. Can you imagine Roberto running into Mike in the hotel lobby or heading to the pool?

If it happens, I hope I'm there.

June 13, 2007

Bryan Allen Signs 5-year Deal



The Panthers have locked up one of their top defensemen, announcing Wednesday morning that the team and Bryan Allen have agreed to a five-year contract.

Allen, acquired last June as part of the Roberto Luongo trade with Vancouver, had a very solid season in 2006-07. Allen, who played in all 82 games, tied a career high in points (25) and had a career high 21 assists.

 Terms of the deal were not disclosed; Allen made $1.55 million last season. Had he not resigned, Allen would have been a restricted free agent on July 1, and could have become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

Panthers general manager Jacques Martin and Allen were not available for comment Wednesday morning, but the Panthers said both would address the media later in the day.

“Bryan proved to be one of our top four defensemen last year and he will continue to play a vital role in our team’s future success,” Martin said in a statement. “He is a very talented and physical player with a tremendous work ethic, who is an asset to our organization both on and off the ice. With the signing of Allen, we now have assembled a core nucleus of defensemen for next season that includes Jay Bouwmeester, Ruslan Salei and Mike Van Ryn.’’