He told me and Brian Y today that he's expected to be fine and dandy come training camp.
This is a good, solid move by the Panthers, locking up a guy who's role on the team is a lot more important than his role on the stat sheet. Belak doesn't score a whole lot, but he does carry a lot of weight both on the ice and in the room.
One thing I liked about Wade last year was how he noticed how much pressure Olli Jokinen was carrying around at the end of the season and tried to alleviate some of that by joking around with Olli on the ice, kind of messing with him to loosen him up, break up some of the tension. I don't know too many other players who would have not only recognized the pressure Olli was under, but try to do something to lessen it. Don't know if it worked, but at least the dude gave it a shot.
As I've said a number of times, I don't think the Panthers are going to be able to bring back Steve Montador, so I would think Belak would get some more minutes than he did last year.
Says Belak: "I think the players there respect me and appreciate what I do. If I can make room for the guys who can score, to where they don't have to worry about the intimidation factor, well, I've done my job.''
Regarding his shoulder surgery, Belak says he had a partially torn labrum and had been playing in pain for over a year. Says it got to the point where it affected his off-ice work. He adds he'll be good come August, plenty of time for training camp when it kicks off in September.
"It got to the point where I couldn't work the way I wanted to,'' he said. "It would flare up and that would be enough. They say the rehab is four to six months, but it's feeling real good so I'm looking at the four month side of things. I'm confident it'll be fine.''
-- The Panthers also signed center Kamil Kreps to a two-year deal today and that's a nice reward for a fine rookie season. Kreps had a very underrated 2007-08 campaign.
-- Also, David Booth scored for Team USA last night as Americans topple Slovenia 5-1 at Worlds...
-- Also, team came to terms with 23-year-old Luke Beaverson, who just finished his senior season at Alaska-Anchorage. I would have guessed a hockey player with the name Beaverson would have played at Oregon State, although I'm not sure they even have a team.
Anyway, The Beaver scored a goal with two assists in 30 games for the Seawolves. A native of St. Paul, Beaverson was captain of the team and JM says he's a "big, strong and durable defenseman who will continue to develop at the professional level.'' The Panthers drafted Beaverson in the seventh round of the 2004 draft.
-- Also, FSN will air its Panthers wrap-up show (one they probably could have broadcast on March 28, the day after they lost to the Thrashers at home) on May 10 at 11 a.m. Lots of good stuff from Denis, Goldie, Craig, Frank and the rest of the crew I'm sure.