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36 posts from June 2008

June 30, 2008

Olesz Hooked Up

NIAGARA FALLS - Panthers have signed Rostislav Olesz to a six-year deal. More as things develop...

June 26, 2008

Soup's On

PITTSBURGH - About to watch the Bucs and Yanks, but decided to report Gregory 'Greg' Campbell has signed a two-year deal with the Panthers.

More in tomorrow's Miami Herald (from David J., not G).

June 25, 2008

Free Agency Focus

BinocsJust got off the phone with JM, confirming that Jozef Stumpel has been waived. Says even if his salary was less, he still probably wouldn't be back, adding he's trying to "make sure we have people in the dressing room with the right attitude for Pete.''

Players the Panthers made qualifying offers to: Jay Bouwmeester, Gregory Campbell, Drew Larman, Martin Lojek (to keep his rights while he plays in Czech this season), Stefan Meyer, Rostislav Olesz and Anthony Stewart. Players not tendered: Garth Murray, Adam Taylor and Martin Tuma.

-- JM says the team is negotiating with Steve Montador and wants him back next season. At the right price, of course. JM says negotiations have been going on with Monty's agent for a while, but nothing yet. I think Monty tests the free agency waters before agreeing to anything. Still not sure he returns.

"We’re talking with Monty,'' JM said. "I've talked with all three (Montador, Cullimore, Johansson), but it depends if I can move some people. Monty is in a different category because he plays both position. We feel we’ve had good conversation with his agent. We’re progressing. I’d like to sign him. We’ve talked to his agent for quite a while now. We want to sign him, want to be fair with him. Depends on what his demands are.''

-- Nothing new to report on Bo.

-- From the tone in JM's voice, doesn't sound like the team is going to be very active in the FA market. He said the roster is full ("I would have to move some players") and he felt they were filling a need with speed and "character guys" last year when Richard Zednik, Brett McLean and Radek Dvorak were brought in. Sounds like Michael Frolik and Shawn Matthias are making this team out of training camp. JM says they have talented players ready to step up and fill a void. We shall see.

Of course, this could be another JM smokescreen. Time will tell.

"I don’t know at this point,'' JM said when asked about bringing in some help come July 1. "Look at the people that we have. In order to get people we want, we would have to trade. It always depends. It's not like last year where I felt we needed speed and character. That’s why we went free agency route and signed three players. Part of last year’s strategy was, we didn’t think we had too many people ready to step up. This year we do.''

Good Day, Eh

BobanddougIt's time for some vacation.

Played my last round of golf in South Florida for a bit Wednesday morning, leaving for my annual road trip tomorrow morning. Just letting those loyal readers know posts may be more infrequent over the coming weeks, although thanks to my laptop and my Treo, I'll keep things updated as I can.

So don't stop visiting.

-- Big news out of Pantherland today is the shocking news that Jozef Stumpel was placed on waivers. If he clears waivers, which is expected, Stumpel will have the final year of his contract bought out by the Panthers.

The Stumpie South Florida Era is a strange one. He really struggled in his first year with the Panthers before picking up the pace and ending with 15 goals and 37 assists in 2005-06. In the following season, he also started slow, but had a good finish and was one of Florida's top players in the final half of the season, ending with 57 goals. His four game-winners, as much as being a mentor to Rostislav Olesz, earned him a nice two-year deal from the Panthers.

Stumpel had trouble matching what he did in 2006-07 last season, two shoulder injuries holding him to 52 games. The Panthers still like Stumpel, but not at the salary he would have made last season. Plus, they figure his speed is a liability as he goes into 2008-09 as a 36-year-old. By buying Stumpel out (at two-thirds his $2.25 salary), Florida doesn't get too bad a cap-hit (the payout stretches out over the next two seasons).

-- Spoke to Peter DeBoer today, says the coaching staff situation is all but finalized. Says he was going to meet with JM later in the day. He says there won't be much change, but there will be some. There are only three assistants currently on staff, so a little change would be 33.3 percent.

-- When asked about the long shot of long shots (Mats Sundin eschewing a Canadien -- err, Canadian -- team or the Rangers for the Panthers), DeBoer just laughed.

"Who wouldn't want Mats Sundin?,'' he said. "He's one of the all-time greats. But all that is up to Jacques. He handles all that.''

-- Speaking of Mats, the City of Sunrise has agreed to change its name to "Sundin, Florida" if Mats decides to sign with the Panthers. "No one knows where we're at anyway,'' one Sunrise official lamented. "Some people like to call us 'North Weston' or 'South Tamarac.' It doesn't matter.''

June 24, 2008

'Southern' Ontario

MatsWas playing golf yesterday with a couple former Panthers, and the idea was floated that Mats Sundin may have some interest in coming south.

Way south.

A pending free agent here in the coming days, Montreal holds the Toronto captain's exclusive negotiating rights until July 1 (although sportsnet.ca reports the Rangers previous held those rights).

Sundin, 37, will have plenty of offers. According to the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby, Wade Belak says he's trying to recruit Sundin to the Sunshine State.

Like I said yesterday, I don't see it happening. But it would be cool. "You could slap that C right on the sweater,'' one said. "And he can play golf in the middle of December. Win, win.''

And maybe it'll snow in Miami again this winter. I mean, it could happen.

-- Memo to Mats: Florida doesn't have a province tax, much less a state tax.

You do have to pay sales tax on your greens fees, but I don't see that being a problem since, well, you won't be paying to play golf.

Stockholm Bac -- Memo to Mats II: Little known fact, but Sunrise is known as Little Stockholm; Parkland known as Little Brammo. It'll be like being home, only with a tad more heat and humidity.

-- TSN.ca has a timeline and kind of an update on the Sundin deal. Says there that he is taking his time, and a decision on where he plays next season won't be figured out until after the July 1 free agency signing period begins.

-- Memo to Mats III: They just opened up a new IKEA in Sunrise. In fact, on busy days, folks park at the Panthers arena and get shuttled down the road to do their shopping. I don't think you would have to take the shuttle. Love those meatballs!

-- Don't know if you heard, but Tampa Bay is set on hiring Barry Melrose to be its new coach. This one came out of left field. The Lightning really did a good job keeping a lid on this one. No leaks there.

-- Memo to Mats IV: The Panthers are well aware your birthday is Feb. 13. If you sign with Florida, they are willing to have Valentine's Day celebrated a day early in honor of your birthday throughout Broward, Monroe, Palm Beach and Collier counties. Miami-Dade County has yet to agree. "They still have a hockey team up there?,'' one county commissioner asked. "Can the Marlins play in their arena?"

-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting Gary Roberts is going to continue his NHL career, only it won't be in the Steel City. GR is going to be a free agent come July 1.

Since Joe Nieuwendyk is expected to be working for the Maple Leafs come July 2, expect tons of speculation that GR returns to Toronto and dons the Blue and White for one more season. The Leafs are going to have a young team, and without Mats, could use some veteran leadership. Gary could be that veteran presence.

June 21, 2008

The Panthers Make Their Picks

Markstrom KANATA, Ontario -- The second day of the NHL Draft kicked off Saturday morning at Scotiabank Place with the Florida Panthers and Scott Luce (the team's director of amateur scouting) making the first pick.

And Florida selects goalie Jacob Markstrom, an 18-year-old from Brynas, Sweden who is already playing in a men's pro league in his native country.

He was a top 20 guy who slipped down to pick No. 31. If he lives up to potential, could be a steal. Could also say that about all the fellows who got picked here in the past 24 hours.

Belfourbench The Panthers were thrilled to get this guy, a goalie who they think can eventually become a No. 1. He's going to spend the next two seasons playing in the Swedish Elite League (he split time with the junior team in Brynas and the Elite team) and beat former Panther/probable future Hall of Famer Ed Belfour twice in meetings there in Sweden.

Scott Luce, who leads the Panthers amateur scouting, said the Florida table all crossed their fingers that Markstrom wouldn't be taken in the first round on Friday night. Detroit, picking 30th on Friday, did go with a goalie, opting for Thomas McCollum out of Guelph of the OHL.

"I could hardly contain myself on the bus back to the hotel,'' Luce said, knowing the Panthers were going to get a good goalie when they returned to the arena on Saturday.

-- The Panthers made a small move Saturday, giving Phoenix back the No. 49 pick to move up to No. 46. Florida also surrendered a fourth round pick in 2009 for that honor.

Robak With the selection, the Cats go with another defenseman, grabbing Colby Robak from the Brandon Wheat Kings. Phoenix, it should be noted, grabs another of the Staal brothers, taking right winger Jared Staal.

-- Spoke with Markstrom after the pick, says he was just happy to be taken so early on Saturday. Projected to be a first round pick, Markstrom was the third goalie taken, and says he's followed the Panthers quite a bit, even bringing up John Vanbiesbrouck.

Didn't get to speak to Robak. He left Ottawa early this morning to attend his high school graduation.

Some people need to get their priorities in order.

Comrie_2 -- Panthers make their third pick of the day, and I know this is going to surprise some people, but it's a defenseman. With the 80th overall selection, Florida takes Adam Comrie, a native of Ottawa who grew up in Arlington, Virginia.

Ranked the 44th North American skater by central scouting, Comrie played for Saginaw of the OHL.

Jenks -- In the fourth round, the Cats look for some offense, taking left winger A.J. Jenks from Plymouth (Weiss, Campbell and DeBoer's old team) of the OHL. A Detroiter (like Booth), Jenks ended up ranked No. 50 North American skater by central scouting; at midseason, he was 20. Jenks, pictured at right, first picked up the game of hockey the inline way, and his skating needs work. The Panthers are confident he'll get it down.

-- The final pick of the day came in the seventh round, Florida getting yet another defenseman. Matt Bartkowski, a 20-year-old, was taken. Big Bart, pic below, will be going to Ohio State this fall and should be quite mature when he's ready to make the Bartkowski jump to the pros.

Florida hopes he'll be ready to make some sort of an impact and if not, hey, it was a seventh rounder.

-- Onto the Panthers of today, spoke to coach Pete DeBoer and he said he'll be back in Sunrise on Tuesday. Says he's going to meet with JM and hopefully finalize the coaching staff by the end of next week. Don't expect to see Guy Charron return, but it appears Mike Kitchen and Pierre Groulx will be back. DeBoer is going to bring in one of his guys to join the staff, and it looks like Charron is the odd man out. Too bad, one of the really good guys in this business. I will miss goofing with Guy during the season. Class guy.

-- Martin wouldn't speculate on what's next for the roster, although there is bound to be some changes. He wouldn't say if he plans to buyout the final year of Jozef Stumpel's contract or allow him to come back next season. Stumpel was beset by injuries last season, one year removed from getting 57 points off 23 goals.

-- More, as always, in tomorrow's edition of The Miami Herald. We had a ton of stuff online today regarding the Olli trade and will have more tomorrow. Come on back, ya hear?

-- The Herald files from Saturday:

My Main from yesterday with a Herald (not a Frozen) Poll

David J. Neal: Not a fan of the trade

Olli's Florida career in pictures

My draft notebook with some Stamkos stuff

Other Jokinen copy:

From the Arizona Republic

Eric Duhatschek from the Globe and Mail

Offline and Back for More

Kanata_2 KANATA, Ontario – Back in suburban Ottawa where for the second day, the mighty National Hockey League cannot figure out how to keep wireless internet working.

Seriously, folks, I’m no computer expert but it cannot be this hard to do something this simple. I know a lot of people out there don’t want to read about stuff like this, but it’s really hard to do your job when tools you’ve been promised cannot be delivered. It’s completely unacceptable.

And it’s probably Bryan Murray’s fault.

Anyway, the second day of the draft is about to kick off, the Panthers leading things off with the first pick of the second round. Updates as I can get them out. Florida also has the 49th overall pick from the Olli Jokinen trade, and three more picks after that. Of course, the Cats could make some sort of a trade and add (or subtract) some picks. As I wrote before, over/under on Florida trades is set at three. We’re under right now.

-- Just spoke to Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. The Great One seems pretty psyched about the direction of his team, and loves the acquisition of Mr. Jokinen. Says putting the blame of Florida’s inabilities to make the playoffs solely on the back of Jokinen is not only not fair, but it isn’t accurate either.

“I’ve learned after 35 years in the National Hockey League that one guy doesn’t win or lose Stanley Cups,’’ said No. 99, who knows a little something about winning Stanley Cups.

“I’ve always said if that was the case, the Boston Bruins would have won 10 years in a row because Bobby Orr was by far the best player in the game. You really have to have the team. One guy can’t win or lose the Stanley Cup and that’s a fact. That’s what’s so great about getting your name on the Stanley Cup; it takes 20 guys. Each and every guy has to be part of it whether you play three minutes a game or 23.’’

He added: “You always want to win in a deal, but this one was good for both teams. They get a really good shutdown defender in Ballard. He has real good upside. He’s a young guy who is a good team guy. He’s physical and tough. And we get a big, strong, fast, lean centerman that we needed. Hopefully this is a deal that two years from now both teams say ‘wow, that was a good trade’.’’

On Olli having something to prove: “I think he’s excited and wants to show he can lead a team into the playoffs. He’s going to get his opportunity with us.’’

-- Former Panther broadcaster Dave Strader will start his second year in the desert this fall as the television voice of the Coyotes. He seemed pretty pumped to get Olli out west when I sent him a text message last night.

-- Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster on Olli leaving the Southeast Division: “It’s one of those things where it’s a real mixed bag. We get [Olli] out but we get Ballard in. It never gets any easier. .-.-. [Ballard] is very tough to play against, is very talented. That’s going to be a big help to the Panthers. I know they gave up a front-line player, but they got a good one in return.’’

Jmandolli -- Have bonus Olli stuff all over MiamiHerald.com

Enjoy the special pictures here

June 20, 2008

Say Goodbye to Olli-Wood

Olliphoenix_4KANATA, Ontario -- Olli Jokinen is now the former captain of the Panthers after being traded to Phoenix prior to the start of Friday's NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place.

The deal includes two players, a pair of defensemen, and one of Phoenix's second round draft picks (49th overall).

Looks like a decent move for the Panthers, and shores up their defense. But Phoenix has to totally love this move.

The players: Nick Boynton, 29, and Keith Ballard, 25.

Both are strong players (Ballard's the star though), and make combined a little more than Olli will make in 2008-09. Both players have expiring contracts, Boynton a free agent after '08-09; Ballard will be a restricted free agent following next season.

I would guess this ends the speculation Florida will go after Ottawa's Wade Redden this offseason, instead, the Panthers need to get themselves some scoring -- because the Panthers don't have much now that Olli's gone.

Olli's been Florida's leading scorer the past five seasons. JM must have really wanted Olli gone to make this deal. It's not the overwhelming trade we all thought was going to come down the pike.

But Ballard is a strong player, some are saying a potential star in the making.

-- Will be on 790 The Ticket around 8:30 to talk about the trade. Working the phones, updates as we go.

-- Spoke with Olli not too long ago, will give you these quotes, then transcribe JM and get those too.

Here we go.

Arizona1 "I wasn't surprised to get traded. I knew it was going to happen. I am surprised at the destination. I'm looking forward to playing under Wayne Gretzky. I've only met him in passing. There are some good players out there.

"It's always a shock to get traded. It's part of the business. I was ready for this. My agents do their homework, talk to other people. They obviously know more than the players do in these kind of situations.

"I had a feeling after the season they were going to trade me. Especially after they hired a coach. No one called me. The only way I knew about it was when [PR guy Justin Copertino] text messaged me. I knew then my dream was over. Since then, I knew I was gone for sure.

"I don't want to be somewhere where I'm not wanted. It's a tough business. That's the sad part. It's not just me who was traded. It was my family, friends around here who have a piece of this. I'm happy to say I was part of the Florida Panthers for eight years. But it's over now.

"South Florida is our home now. It will remain our home for the rest of our lives.

"There was a lot of special things that happened here for me. I want to thank all our loyal fans, my teammates in Florida. I've seen a lot of teammates come and go, now I'm going.

Arizona2 "It was definitely time to move on. I had 89 points one season, 91 the next. A plus player. Then I had a down year. I was a bit off, but a lot of things went on that affected me.

"Every player has a down year, but I don't think I had the support of management. At the end of the year, I don't think they respected what I do. That makes it kind of hard to respect them. I took most of the blame for last year, and looking back, that was a mistake. It wasn't the best thing to do. The message from the staff was that [missing the playoffs] was my fault. How much can you blame one guy? Maybe they didn't do such a good job either.

"I do wish the best for the Panthers. I hope they made a good deal. I think Phoenix believes they made one. I hope this works out well for both teams.''

Some stuff from Jacques Martin:

“I felt we needed to improve our defense,’’ said Martin. “When you look at teams who are successful, you need defensemen who are mobile and can move the puck. Acquiring defensemen is not easy. They’re hard to come by.’’

“This is not personal at all,’’ Martin said. “As I’ve always said, I’ve enjoyed working with Olli. He’s an excellent player. But I looked to improve our club. I wouldn’t have made the trade if I didn’t think it was good for the organization. I didn’t have to make the trade. That’s why we made it.’’

Olli Jokinen photo illustration: Devin Donahue

Still Nothing -- But Just Wait

DraftKANATA, Ontario -- Finally got online here at the Senators' arena out in the sticks, waiting for something to get going.

You can take St. Louis off the board in trying to get Olli Jokinen, the Palm Beach Post's Brian Biggane speaking with Blues' president John Davidson earlier today to confirm that (I wrote yesterday St. Louis guys were in the hotel talking to Panthers guys. A reach? Yup.)

Also hearing Minnesota has upped its offer for Olli, but the Panthers still aren't biting, one source saying Florida has better offers on the table. Minnesota's offer sounds decent (the Wild's pick at 24 is a bit low) so if Florida does have better offers, they could be pretty strong.

Still hearing the usual list of suspects: Calgary, Vancouver, C-Bus and Tampa Bay (just kidding with that one.)

-- The Panthers are on the draft floor, getting ready for this thing to get going. Still no word on any trade -- Florida or otherwise -- of significance.

Am now hearing the Phoenix Coyotes are deep in the mix, the Desert Dogs picking eighth -- just before Florida's old pick which now belongs to Nashville.

Internet is down in the arena right now, using my wireless card. Will be updates as they come.

-- JM was just spotted talking with TGO (The Great One), Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. Take from that what you will...

JM is up and walking around, just left the dance floor...didn't see anyone from PHX follow him out. Could be a bathroom break, could be going out for a smoke. Could be finalizing a trade....

Quiet So Far AKA Calm Before the (Guelph) Storm

Bear OTTAWA -- The draft is only a few hours away, so we're getting real close to crunch time. Will Olli stay or Olli go? We're going to find out soon.

Highlight of the day was getting lunch at the Ottawa Rib Festival. And the ribs weren't that good. So that tells you not much is going on. Oh, I bought a Diet Pepsi. That's one of today's highlights too.


-- The first big trade of Friday comes out of St. Louis, with the Blues picking up goalie Chris Mason in exchange for a fourth round pick. Nashville has made its pick, signing Dan Ellis to a two-year deal to be the fulltime starter.

Mason, it should be noted, became the Preds starter at this time last year when Nashville traded Tomas Vokoun to the Panthers. Mason, formerly of the Panthers, played in 51 games last year. He struggled after a hot start, with Ellis picking up a lot of the load.

-- In no surprise, the Sens have put Ray Emery on waivers. If he doesn't get picked up by anyone else (he won't, not at $3.7 million for next season), then Ottawa will buy him out.

-- Big news that isn't hockey related: Canada's baseball team (not the Expos) have fired manager John Gibbons and replaced him with Cito Gaston -- the same manager the Jays fired despite him leading them to a pair of World Series championships. Always thought Cito got a raw deal and was surprised he never got another chance to manage. Good too see him back with the Jays.

-- Pal Ed Willes at the Vancouver Province wrote today that there are rumblings that the Sedin twins -- Henrik and Daniel -- could be available. Rumor is, that's the price JM wanted for Olli Jokinen back at the trade deadline and I'm sure he and the Canucks are talking as we speak. Read Ed's story right here.

-- John Anderson (not the country singer) officially named coach of the Atlanta Thrashers. He is on conference call at 3, speaking with us in Kanata at 5. Will likely have some more stuff. Now just waiting to see who the Lightning will hire.

Look at Anderson as a good coach for this young team. He's coached a lot of these guys with the AHL powerhouse Chicago Wolves.

June 19, 2008

Thursday with Jacques

JacquesOTTAWA -- Spoke with Jacques Martin Thursday afternoon about the draft, Olli, the weather, good places to hang in Ottawa and Tim Hortons coffee (which is so good I've had two cups today and since I usually don't drink coffee I am bouncing off the walls writing run-on sentences and basically acting goofier than before if you can believe that)....


Anyway, JM says he "honestly doesn't know" if the Panthers are going to make a deal in the coming hours (my over/under set at three trades). He adds he really wants to shore up the defense in the coming weeks, either through trade or the start of the free agency period on July 1. Says the Panthers have six d-men under contract, with negotiations ongoing with 2007-08 d-guys Magnus 'Magnum' Johansson and Jassen Cullimore.

"If they aren't signed, they'll be free agents,'' Martin said about those two. "We've had conversations with them. We have to wait and see what happens at the draft, whether we acquire some defense, whether we move some people out. We'll wait until after the draft and re-evaluate where we are on defense.''

-- On Olli, the deals: "There's nothing new.''

-- Lot of interest?: "Like any draft, you always talk to other general managers. Some teams are interested. He's a No. 1 center, a premier center. As I've always said, if the right deal is there, I'll do it. If not, hey. There's no time limit on this. Teams looking for a No. 1 center, the draft probably won't fulfill those needs. July 1 may be the same. I'll listen to what the offer is and make the right decision for the organization.''

-- On the 31st pick: "I believe we can get a good player. Look at last year where we got Michal Repik (40th). That's a good example. He was a second round guy, and this draft has even more depth. We should get a player of pretty good stature.''

-- On Rochester being an official deal (three years): "We've never had the coach there, Buffalo always supplied it. And [Randy Cunneyworth] was really good. But he's going to be more apt to play a system like the Sabres do. Now with our coaches, they can spend time with Peter [DeBoer] and talk about the type of system we're going to play. Then, hopefully they'll play the same style so when you call up a player they're ready to go and our familiar with our style of play.''

-- State of the organization: "We have to improve our defense. I like our goaltending, like our forwards. We have guys coming back, a good crop of kids who are beating down the door ready to play. We have some depth with [Wade] Belak. We feel good about that. Defense is the area that's our focus.''

-- On Noah Welch: "He's cleared to play and has done a lot of work rehabbing (his injured shoulder). We expect him to have a good summer of training and skating. Hopefully he comes in next year and earn a spot. He's going to dictate where he is. It's not his fault, not our fault, but he didn't play last year. He was injured. We acquired him -- and haven't changed our minds -- because we thought he could help our team. He's big, can skate, is strong and can move the puck.

"With a new coach, he's kind of in the same boat as everyone else. It's a fresh start.''

-- Some Steven Stamkos stuff that I cut out of tomorrow's story:

The immediate success former Ontario Hockey League stars Patrick Kane (Chicago’s reigning Rookie of the Year) and Edmonton’s Sam Gagner has given Stamkos confidence he will succeed with the Lightning next year.

“I saw a lot of those two guys over the years,’’ said Stamkos. “To see how well they’ve done in the NHL at such a young age, well, I’m in the same spot. I want to follow in their footsteps and get to the next level.’’

A Major Award

LampNew contest coming to you here at On Frozen Pond.

In the event Olli Jokinen is traded (updates below), I'll be looking for a photoshopped picture of the current Florida captain in his new uniform. So, if he goes to Vancouver, need a picture of him in a Canucks sweater. Minnesota? The Wild. Tampa Bay? The Buccaneers.

First person to email me said picture (and it can't just be a logo slapped over the Panther, it has to be something good) gets either a 2008 NHL Draft baseball cap or t-shirt. Let me know which gift you prefer (and tell me your t-shirt size if that's your preference) in your email.

Winner will get full photo credit right here once we're done. Actually hope we don't have to go through with this, and that way I get to keep the cap!

Email me here: grichards@MiamiHerald.com or thegman75@aol.com

Thanks for playing.

Parkland Pride -- Now With More Olli!

ParklandOTTAWA -- Just got back from the prospects lunch here at the Ottawa Marriott, must say I was impressed by the style in which Steven Stamkos handles himself. Seems like the Lightning are getting a kid who gets it.

Going to be seeing a lot of this guy in the coming years in the black-and-blue.

Now, I posted something here last night that I took down after looking it over again. It dealt with the absence of team president Michael Yormark at Monday's press conference introducing coach Pete DeBoer. I felt it was a cheap shot thrown at Michael's way, especially since I had not spoken to him first about the subject. Not going to delve into what I posted last night, but here goes a new version.

Michael told me today that he had a previous engagement on Monday that he couldn't get out of. The press conference was originally scheduled for 11 a.m., but Pete's plane was delayed out of Toronto pushing things back two hours. Michael said he did get there for the tail-end of the presser, although I never saw him.

Would have liked to have been invited to Tuesday's unveiling of this so-called "Captain's Room,'' the deal where fans entered a contest to have a room in their house decorated in all sorts of Florida Panthers paraphernalia with a bunch of Olli Jokinen stuff interspersed.

Olli came back from vacation to attend this ceremony in Parkland, with Michael in attendance as well. I was told Michael greeted his man Olli with a big bear hug, probably just letting him know that Olli is still appreciated by some members of the organization.

I'm going to miss Olli.

I think he's absolutely gone. Olli's done a lot for this organization (though he never should have left the golf tournament early with Nathan Horton) and for hockey in South Florida. The guy never misses a game and, for the most part, is Florida's best player on a nightly basis. He wasn't at the end of this season, but I think a change of scenery will do both good.

I don't think anything is going to happen today, but something may just go down tomorrow. JM is talking to a host of teams, and I'm not about to guess where Olli will land. I think it will be somewhere in the American Midwest, however, and if I was betting in Vegas, would put money on Columbus or Minnesota. See a lot of St. Louis folks chatting up the Panthers, and they could certainly be in the mix as well.

Word out of Minnesota is that Brian Rolston and the Wild are close to a contract agreement, although the Wild are holding off on finalizing things. That's leading to speculation that the Wild are waiting to see if they can score a certain Finnish center from Florida to take that spot on the payroll.

-- This in: Hearing now that Vancouver is heavily in the mix for Mr. Jokinen's services, and may be one of the teams out there willing to match JM's demands to make some noise. Makes sense. Team missed the playoffs last year and have a first-year GM who's trying to make things happen. The Canucks aren't the most talented team out there, and they are missing some late picks because of previous trades.

Olli and Louie in the Pacific Northwest? Could happen. The Panthers West.


-- More rumors: Hearing from many people that Joe Nieuwendyk will be joining the Maple Leafs front office soon after his contract with the Panthers expires on July 1.

The Panthers refused Toronto's request to speak with Joe officially, the Panthers not wanting Joe's knowledge (on the Panthers dime) of the draft working in someone else's favor. But since Joe resigned soon after the season ended and his contract is up, he can do anything he pleases in the coming weeks.

-- Pete DeBoer is here in Ottawa, and saw him chatting up a number of Florida front office folk -- including assistant coach Mike Kitchen. No word on what DeBoer is going to do with the Florida coaching staff yet.

June 18, 2008

Roch It Is

OTTAWA - The Panthers will become the sole parent team to the AHL Rochester Americans. It'll be announced tomorrow...

As the Jokinen Turns

OllifightOTTAWA -- Here in a town some say is the Capital of Canada, getting settled in for what should be a wild and woolly weekend at the NHL Draft.

Staying at the Panthers hotel and have already run into a few of the assistant coaches. Pete DeBoer doesn't seem to be here yet (his plane must have been delayed) but the assistants seem eager to speak with him. For obvious reasons.

After landing in Montreal, I phoned up Mark Gandler, Olli's agent, to ask him about the TSN report in which Olli supposedly has asked out of Florida. I doubt Olli would call JM personally for such a thing; he'd let his agent do it. So I asked if it was true. Gandler wouldn't confirm or deny the report, only saying that TSN spoke with neither he nor Olli, and basically told me if he commented on every rumor regarding his client, we'd speak every day.

"Olli's lived under these clouds of rumors for so long it's not a big deal,'' Gandler said. "He's just enjoying the break from hockey with his family right now. When the time comes to get ready for hockey, he'll do so 100 percent."

I asked him if he thought bridges had been burned, Gandler said not necessarily.

"Olli wants to play hockey, and if the Florida Panthers want him to play for them, that's great. He's more than willing to do that,'' Gandler said. "It's up to the Panthers. If they want to trade him away, that's their business. There's nothing we can do about it. Olli is going to play hard for someone next season, that's all I can tell you.''

Should be an interesting couple of days.

-- Well, the Lightning and Oilers have new owners, both groups getting approval from the NHL Board of Governors today. Welcome to the Sunshine State, Mr. Melrose!

-- Speaking of the Bolts, Tampa traded a seventh round pick to regain the rights to winger Vinny Prospal. The former Panther was traded to Philadelphia last season to help in the Flyers playoff push, and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Guess the Bolts figure he'll be happy to re-sign with them because they took a bit of a risk giving up a draft pick just for an exclusive negotiating period. But it's worked before, and it is only a seventh rounder.

New Dawn in Tampa

LightningWaiting for my delayed flight here in a very quiet Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood/Cooper City/Margate International Airport near Dania Jai-Alai, wondering who will be the first pick in the NHL Draft come Friday.

The Lightning, you may have heard, won the first pick in the lottery despite beating the Panthers in the final weeks of the season.

Don't know who they are going to pick. The Lightning have been very quiet about this whole thing, not letting its guard down to reveal the top pick. It's a light draft, not many good players. Sure we won't see any of these players for a long time.

-- What's that you said? Steven Stamkos? Who?

-- Think the Bolts are geeked up about this draft? The team is holding three -- yup, three -- separate draft parties in the Bay area. Haven't heard about a Panthers party yet. Perhaps some of you all can meet up in the Quarterdeck parking lot for Saturday's first pick of the second round.

-- Of course, the Panthers could just have a pick or two in the first round despite not currently having one.

Big news in Pantherland is that TSN is reporting that Olli Jokinen has "indicated" that he would like to be traded. If this is true, it's a complete reversal from things I have heard from Camp Jokinen. If it's true (and I don't really doubt the validity of the report), I think Olli figured he was gone anyway, might as well make it look like he had some control over things.

It's the old "you're fired," "you can't fire me, I quit" scenario.

Still, JM does not have to make a deal at this draft for Olli, and I think it's going to take a pretty substantial deal to make things go down. Of course, he could trade Olli for a draft pick and a case of Molsons for all I know.

-- Don't forget to keep checking back throughout the weekend. Going to be Draft Central right here (well, we'll see what happens). As always, if any news is happening, I'll post here first.

Worrell -- Good news out of Miami today. The Miami Toros -- a junior team that plays out of Kendall -- is going to introduce former Panther tough Peter Worrell as its coach.

Had an email forwarded to me (memo to the Toros: It's grichards@miamiherald.com), but won't be able to get onto the 2 p.m. conference call because I'll be in Canada (I hope) and it costs like $1.75 a minute to use a cellular phone up there.

Anyway, good look to Pete and the Toros.

-- If you haven't heard already, Rangers assistant Perry Pearn is a little miffed JM didn't call him and let him know A) the Panthers gig was going to Pete DeBoer and B) he wouldn't be getting an interview for the job that was, well, now filled.

Pearn had knee replacement surgery this offseason and was rehabbing it to make the flight to SoFla to talk with JM the GM. It's a meeting that never took place. You can read all about the slight here in the Edmonton Journal.

June 16, 2008

More Fun from Sunrise


Here is some extra stuff from the press conference today. More stuff obviously in tomorrow's Miami Herald (which I will link tomorrow).

Monday, Jacques Martin said he officially interviewed three men for the Panthers coaching job, but wouldn’t confirm who the third candidate was.

Martin later said he promised that coach he wouldn’t reveal his name leading to me speculating that it was a coach employed by another team – perhaps one Florida hadn’t formally asked permission to speak to.

Martin had been granted permission by the New York Rangers to speak with assistant coach Perry Pearn, although its not known whether the two long-time friends had talked about the job.

Other candidates may have included fired Kings coach Marc Crawford, former Atlanta coach Bob Hartley and current Pittsburgh assistant Andre Savard. It could also have been John Tortorella who may not have wanted people to know he was interested in coaching the Panthers after all the venom he's spewed south over the years. 

Once again, Martin was tight lipped leaving this guy to throw some stuff up against the wall. Not reporting any of this as fact. Not even close.

(*) As far as Rostislav Olesz goes, Martin says the two sides aren’t all that close, but have agreed a long-term deal is the way to go. “We both partly agree on the long-term contract and we’re both on the same page,’’ he said. “We’re just trying to get the numbers to fit on both sides. We want what’s fair for him and a good deal for the organization.’’

(*) On making trades at the draft: “That’s where things really build up,’’ Martin said. “you’re able to make contact with a number of teams and it’s really easier to do something before the draft. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, that really heats up.’’

Martin said the Tomas Vokoun deal came together at last year’s draft, with both sides talking in the weeks prior to making it to Columbus. The announcement was made hours before the first pick was selection on Friday’s opening night. “We had spoken with David Poile a month earlier, but we weren’t thinking that much until an opportunity came on that day and we took advantage of it.’’

(*) JM has no update on Chad Kilger. Says he doesn’t know whether Kilger will play for the Panthers next season.

(*) DeB on Jay Bouwmeester and not neccisarilly getting involved in the discussions: “That’s obviously Jacques’ job. But players want to be in a place where they can win, and that’s my role. Hopefully we put a winning team on the ice, one that Jay feels gives him a chance not only in the near future but down the road as well.

“He’s going to have to gain that trust through the season. We’re going to have to develop that relationship as a coach and player. In a perfect world, we’ll come in here and have a great season. Jay will be part of it and see a vision like we see down the road that this is a young group that can grow and win for a long time.’’

(*) More David Booth on DeBoer:

“This coach is familiar with some of our players, so that will help him in the adjustment period. But I think everyone is going to have to work real hard. You can never get comfortable with your game. With a new coach, you have to prove myself all over again. Truthfully, that helps me and I think it helps everyone else.

“I would think everyone is real anxious to get going again.’’

Meet the New Boss

DeboerjmPete DeBoer finally landed (his flight out of Toronto was delayed today) and headed to The Bank to meet the gathered media.

Would have been a bigger group, but the Dolphins are having a competing presser, and you know who gets precedence in this town.

Still, a large group here for the formal introductions.

"We're proud and privileged to have Peter lead our group,'' JM said.

Said Pete: "We're very excited about moving to South Florida. I know what the expectations are, where the bar is set. There's a lot of work to be done, but I'm excited.''

Watching the Canes and have a lot of work to do, but spoke to Pete and JM after the presser and got some news and notes. Once I get done doing my traditional newspaper work done, will update here.

For those who asked, both JM and DeBoer were asked if anything changed with Olli Jokinen's situation. These are paraphrases...

JM: "I don't think anything has changed. We don't have many untouchables on our roster. If we see a chance to improve our team, we will.''

DeB: "Those are decisions that are best left up to Jacques. My plan is to come here in September and go to training camp with whatever team I'm given.''

-- DeBoer plans to meet with the assistant coaches this week in Ottawa at the draft, says no decision has been made. XM Radio is speculating that Paul Maurice, a good friend of DeBoer, could be coming here as an assistant if he doesn't land a head coaching job this season.

-- JM says talks are moving forward with both Campbell and Olesz. Doesn't seem to be concerned with either.

-- JM adds nothing new with the Bo situation, adding he's been busy with the coaching search and now the draft is here. JM adds he'll get to Bo next week when the draft is over. If I had to bet, I would guess next week is going to be pretty busy what with buyouts coming to guys he can't trade, and possibly others signing.

-- On a different note, congratulations to Doug Betters and Bob Baumhower for their induction into the Dolphins Ring of Honor. Was a big fan of both of those guys growing up, and even cut Betters' grass a few times as he lived down the street from me when we moved up from Miami to Pembroke Lakes way back when. A.J. Duhe and John Offerdahl up next for the Ring.

Photo Credit: Walt Michot, Miami Herald Staff

Not So Fast

AirplanePete DeBoer's flight to Fort Lauderdale has been delayed (and if he's on US Air connecting through Philadelphia, his luggage probably won't make it, either).

Press conference once scheduled for 11 a.m. is now set for 1 p.m. at The Bank.

I'm going golfing now that I'm up and everything...

June 15, 2008

Dancing Banana Time!

DancingbananaST. PETERSBURG -- Covering the Marlins this weekend, and have been waiting patiently for the Dancing Banana to make an appearance.

The Dancing Banana, which starred at Panthers games this season, got its start with the Devil Rays you know.

Well, the Banana was a little disappointing today. Was doing its act out in left field -- trying to get the attention of a security guard on the field -- when the Banana blew an o-ring. Or something like that. Anyway, the skit was shortened because of deflation.

Hate when that happens.

See you tomorrow with some Pete DeBoer stuff from the presser...