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25 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

The Saddledome is Now Home: Jay Bouwmeester Signs With Flames ... Panthers Lose Another One

Jaybocalgary Cross Jay Bouwmeester off the list of coveted free agents come tomorrow as the 25-year-old former Florida Panther is going back to his native Alberta (that's in Canada, eh).

According to our pals at TSN, Bo signed a five-year deal with the Calgary Flames just days after the Panthers traded his rights to Darryl Sutter and Calgary for a cap hit of $6.6 million per.

Bo now gets close to home as he is from Edmonton (which is to Calgary what Orlando is to Miami. Only colder. And no mouse).

Good for the Flames. They didn't listen to the naysayers (OK, Jay's agent) who said Bouwmeester wanted to be a 25-year-old free agent and test the waters.

And there's no doubt the Panthers got hosed.

If Jay's agent told Randy Sexton a few weeks ago that he would talk to teams, then it leaked that "you can do what you want with Florida, but Jay isn't signing anywhere until after July 1,'' and then Jay ends up signing with Calgary on June 30 anyway, well, that's pretty crummy.

But it's a business and Jay and his agent owed the Panthers nada. And that's about what the Panthers ended up with.

Truth is, Jay's agent told the Panthers there were a bunch of teams he would rather play for than, you know, the Panthers 18 months ago.

So the Panthers got hosed, and for the most part, it's their own doing. But how they got hosed in the end, well, they had some help there.

The Panthers -- OK, Jacques Martin -- should have dealt with this earlier. And I don't mean at the trade deadline. By then it was too late, the team needing him too much. No, JM the GM should have done something last summer when Jay once more refused to sign long term. JM had Bo's NHL Sears Wish Book in his desk drawer; what more did he need?

What could the Panthers have gotten for Bouwmeester at the 2008 draft? A lot more than a third round pick and the rights to Jordan Leopold for sure. A lot more than what they got in return for Olli Jokinen (although, that deal worked out pretty well). How about a Jokinen/Bouwmeester package? What would teams have surrendered for that?

Well, Calgary's got 'em both now. Florida did get that third round pick Phoenix gave to Calgary when Jokinen went to Alberta at the deadline. That was nice irony.

As for JM, he doesn't have to answer those questions now.

He's in Montreal, far away from the problems in Florida. Are the Panthers better today than they were when he took over as GM? Yeah, I still say so. But the Panthers got nothing for a premier defenseman and by the timeline Randy Sexton gave us, they knew this was going to happen a long time ago. The Panthers have given up three franchise-type players and haven't gotten anything close to their value in return. Florida got some good players back, yes, but at cents on the dollar.

We could say this latest fiasco is going to cripple the Panthers, but that would be too easy to say. Heck, the Panthers missed the playoffs with Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester. They can easily miss them again without them.

As far as Jay goes, he and his agent could have helped the Panthers out. They were of no obligation to do so, but Jay is a very rich man because of the Florida Panthers. He's even more wealthy today. But Florida laid out some serious jingle to Jay over the years.

But he never wanted to be here, money or not.

I often enjoyed dealing with Jay, and I'm not one who thinks the media pressure up there will be too much for him to handle. The media will not be Jay's problem, he can handle that just fine as he showed here, on Florida's tour of Canada earlier this past season and his marathon sessions at the All-Star Game (where, he never once ripped the Panthers but did talk about his desire for more stability down here and would have liked to see more of a hockey atmosphere in South Florida).

No, the media won't be Jay's problem; the other parts of living in Calgary just may be.

No, not right now. Jay's enjoyed much of his offseasons in Alberta, and I'm sure these lazy summer days were a big reason he wants to play there. No, things will change during the heat of hockey season. What's going to happen if/when the Flames lose 3-2 to Edmonton and Jay is on the ice in the final minute and somehow flubs the puck which finds its way past Kipper?

Talking to the media after the game? Oh Jay will do that, he will be the first one in the room to face the music.

But how about after the game when he wants to find a nice quiet place where no one knows -- or even cares, for that matter -- that's he's Jay Bouwmeester? Good luck with that. You've heard how the grass isn't always greener? Well, Jay's going to find out whether it is or not. His lifestyle is about to change. Hopefully, for his sake, it will be for the better. But one never knows until you are in that position.

It's obviously a position Jay's been wanting to be in for a long time. He wanted the spotlight, he's got it. Some guys run to the limelight. I don't think Jay is one of those guys, but he may just enjoy being The Man in a place where he can truly be appreciated.

He and his dad have their wish: Jay Bouwmeester is a Florida Panther no more.

The Panthers? They'll move on, just like they always do.

Weaker, yes, but moving on nonetheless.

It's July 1. Lets see what happens today.

Shocking News: It's a Drew Rosen-hoax ... Panthers, Agent in Cahoots ... NOW! With Frozen Poll ... David Booth to Team USA Orientation

Rosenhaus2 Earlier this morning, South Florida based agent Drew Rosenhaus sent out a note (some call them twits, but I didn't want to go there) on his Twitter account saying he now represented the fans of the Florida Panthers and would be working with the team to negotiate lower season ticket prices.

I knew there was something fishy going on here because this one just didn't pass the sniff test. I mean, the commission on something like this must be pretty small and we all know Drew don't work for free (well, not for the Panthers, anyway).

So, either it was Drew trying to get attention, or a new marketing ploy by the Panthers.

It's both.

The Panthers have said that yes, Rosenhaus is working with the Panthers to try and drum up ticket sales. The marketing campaign will basically surround Rosenhaus with him negotiating lower ticket prices with the team on behalf of the fans.

Here's what I hear is in the works: The Panthers will lower prices in sections 107-111 for seats in the upper part of the lower bowl. These tickets will cost $35 per game for those committing to a season ticket plan. Other parts of The Billboard could also see lower pricing ''thanks'' to Drew Rosenhaus.

Those who have already bought tickets in these sections will be given a refund to match the current price.

Good for them.

Now back to regularly scheduled programming. This story's 15 minutes are up.

-- Congrats to David Booth to being invited to Team USA's Orientation Camp later this summer. Keith Ballard was not on the list but that doesn't mean he can't make the team.


Drew Rosenhaus: I Represent the Fans of the Florida Panthers

Rosenhaus Thanks to a heads up from Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski we learn that agent Drew Rosenhaus is somehow getting involved in the Florida Panthers ticket business.

As in trying to get cheaper tickets for fans.

I don't know who hired him, but I thought ticket prices were pretty reasonable at The Billboard.

According to his Twitter tweet that he tweeted 'tis morning, Drew says:  I have been hired by the fans of the NHL's Florida Panthers to negotiate lower season ticket prices. I will keep you posted on the outcome.

Hope so.

Check it out here. If you're into that kind of thing.

No response yet from the Panthers. But since they're checking this out anyway, if they want to comment they know how to get a hold of me.

Here's what Drew's pr folks sent me not too long ago:

“As a longtime Panthers fan and a person who believes in giving sports fans the value and the atmosphere they deserve, I am absolutely thrilled to represent the Cats faithful at the bargaining table,” Rosenhaus said. “That said, this a unique situation for me to represent the fans as opposed to professional athletes. But as a passionate Cats follower, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the BankAtlantic Center faithful.

“Also, if I can offer a word of advice for head coach Pete DeBoer, president Michael Yormark and the rest of the Panthers front office, ‘be prepared to go low on cost and high on value, and don’t get too comfortable because I’ll be knocking on your door in the next 48 hours.''’

“We felt we needed the very best agent in professional sports to represent us in these negotiations,” said Florida Panthers advisory board member and season ticket holder Nat Levine. “We understand that negotiating season ticket prices may be a first in the industry, but there is simply no option we won’t explore to make sure every South Florida sports fan has the opportunity to experience the excitement of Florida Panthers hockey.''

So, fans of the Panthers: Does Drew represent you, or just The U? Comments welcomed as always.

June 29, 2009

Florida Panthers: No Offer to Steve Eminger, Anthony Stewart; Brett McLean Waived

The Panthers made a number of surprising moves Monday, declining to tender qualifying contractual offers to restricted free agents Steve Eminger and Anthony Stewart among others. Both Eminger and Stewart could return to Florida next season, but on July 1, both are free agents and can sign with any team they would like.

Eminger was acquired by the Panthers at last year's trade deadline in a deal with Tampa Bay, with the 25-year-old unseating veteran defenseman Nick Boynton for a handful of games before coach Pete DeBoer put Boynton back in the lineup. Boynton, who said he didn't think he would return next season, is also a free agent later this week will not be offered a new contract by the Panthers.

Stewart was Florida's first round pick (25th overall) in 2003 and spent the entire 2008-09 season with the Panthers after bouncing around the organization the previous three seasons.

Florida also declined to tender offers to David Shantz, Franklin MacDonald, Drew Larman and Tanner Glass. The Panthers did offer contracts to David Booth (who is in negotiations with the team) and David Brine.

''We're fairly certain he would have a pretty good case in arbitration,'' acting general manager Randy Sexton said of Eminger, ''and I'm not prepared to put this organization in a position where we'd have to pay a large arbitration reward. After July 1, if he wants to chat, we can. But at this time, we're not going to be tendering him an offer.''

Sexton also said the Panthers were willing to bring back veteran defenseman Karlis Skrastins as well as forwards Ville Peltonen and Radek Dvorak. Sexton said all three have shown a willingness to return to the Panthers and Florida has mutual interest ''at the right money and the right terms.''

Brett McLean was put on waivers and the last year of his three-year will probably be bought out.

Florida's activity in the upcoming free agent market will be determined on which of its players it can resign. Goaltender Craig Anderson will be a free agent, and if Florida can't come to terms with him, it will be forced to look elsewhere.

Sexton also said newly acquired defenseman Jordan Leopold's agent told him that Florida was an attractive destination for his client. Florida acquired Leopold's negotiating rights on Saturday after sending Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary. Both Leopold and Bouwmeester can be free agents on Wednesday.


June 27, 2009

Jay Bouwmeester Speaks: ''Mixed Feelings" ... NOW! With Randy Sexton and Jordan Leopold

Bo2 MONTREAL -- Haven't been able to get Jay Bouwmeester on the phone myself, so I did the next best thing: I listened in on his interview with Calgary's 960 The Team.

Bouwmeester, who is playing golf right now, says he has a lot of friends in teammates with the Panthers but sounded ready to leave South Florida.

''I have mixed feelings,'' he said. ''It's the only place I've ever played and I have a lot of good friends, good teammates there. Anytime you leave a place it's difficult. But at the same time, there's a lot of unrest in the organization, a lot of turnover.

''This has been an ongoing thing. Once things get sorted out, it'll settle down. People move on pretty quickly.''

Jay wouldn't commit himself to the Flames, but did say he and his agent would sit down with Calgary's management on Monday and get to work on getting something done.

Of course, this was Jay Bouwmeester at his best. Nothing committal, nothing too interesting. But a solid interview, as usual.

''I'm going to wait and see,'' he said. ''There's time to sort things out, I'm not in a rush. I haven't talked to anyone yet. We have to sit down and see what's up.''

-- UPDATE: Here's the raw copy for my Jay/Leopold wrapup story for tomorrow's Miami Herald...

For another view on the JayBo situation, check out Yahoo's Puck Daddy who has been following this story as long as I have and was down on the draft floor with myself, Steve X and Davy Gravy from the Panthers website to talk to Randy...

BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

MONTREAL – Jay Bouwmeester was going to be a former member of the Panthers soon enough, but on Saturday, the team moved him out of town a few days early.

Bouwmeester, a free agent July 1, was traded to the Calgary Flames on Saturday morning after acting general manager Randy Sexton shook hands with Darryl Sutter and agreed to a deal. Florida received a third round draft pick and the exclusive negotiating rights to defenseman Jordan Leopold in exchange for the negotiating rights to Bouwmeester.

Both Leopold and Bouwmeester can be free agents on July 1 and sign with any other team if they don't agree to a deal with their new teams. Florida selected Josh Birkholz with the third round pick it received from the Flames.

''We think this was a critical day for our organization,'' said Sexton. ''When it became apparent we couldn't sign Jay, we wanted to get something of value. We worked very hard over the past two weeks to work out a deal. Things were going well, then yesterday, everything just got blogged down. .-.-. We felt along that there would be no free looks. We wanted something of value because of the quality of player. We tried to get a second round for that look and no one bit.''

Bouwmeester has long been rumored to be wanting out of South Florida and his reluctance to sign a long-term deal with the Panthers over the past few years all but proving that point. Florida could have traded Bouwmeester at the trade deadline and received more, but then-general manager Jacques Martin decided what was being offered wasn't worth losing a top player during a playoff hunt. It's a decision that backfired in hindsight.

''It's always easy to look in the rear view mirror,'' Sexton said. ''We were a long way down the road at the trade deadline but didn't think we had the value that was required to trade Jay. What's more, we were right in the thick of the playoff race. Our coaches, our players, our fans, everyone wanted us to keep him. We felt it was important to make the playoffs.

''Again, we did what we thought was in the best interest of the franchise and unfortunately we lost on the second tie-breaker and we lose Bo. That's life.''

Bouwmeester, who is a native of Edmonton, told a Calgary radio station that he was ready to sit down with the Flames and talk about a new deal. But, talk is as much as Bouwmeester would commit to.

''I'm going to wait and see,'' he said. ''There's time to sort things out, I'm not in a rush. I haven't talked to anyone yet. We have to sit down and see what's up.''

The Panthers made Bouwmeester the third overall pick in the 2002 draft after trading down from the top spot knowing he would still be there. In the days leading up to the draft, it was apparent Florida was going to use the top overall pick on Bouwmeester. The 25-year-old played six seasons with the Panthers and has played in 346 straight games -- the longest current run in the league.

But Bouwmeester was obviously disenchanted with the direction of the franchise, and despite his resume (two All-Star Games and a spot on Canada's 2006 Olympic team), Bouwmeester has yet to play in an NHL playoff game. The Panthers have been outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2000, the second-longest drought in NHL history.

Now, the team is for sale and doesn't have a permanent general manager. Coach Pete DeBoer will enter his second season.

''I have mixed feelings,'' he said. ''It's the only place I've ever played and I have a lot of good friends, good teammates there. Anytime you leave a place it's difficult. But at the same time, there's a lot of unrest in the organization, a lot of turnover. This has been an ongoing thing. Once things get sorted out, it'll settle down. People move on pretty quickly.''

The Panthers hope to lock down Leopold soon and hope they have an edge in doing so as the 28-year-old is friends and former teammates with Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard. On Saturday, Leopold said he and Ballard played golf together in Minnesota on Wednesday and joked about Leopold potentially coming south. The two played together at the University of Minnesota.

Leopold and Sexton say they haven't spoken, although Sexton said he traded text messages with Leopold's agent during Saturday's draft. The two planned to speak Saturday night in Montreal.

''I was sleeping when I got the news, so that's funny. It caught me off guard a little bit,'' Leopold said from Minnesota. ''Anything can happen. This is a business. We'll move forward. I'm just taking this in. I don't think I can make a fair assessment because I haven't talked to the team yet. They're working the draft, I understand that. I'm sure when things are over with, my agent will meet with their staff and discuss some options. I have open ears. This is a new opportunity for me.''

LIVE! Draft Day II: JAY BOUWMEESTER Traded to Calgary; Jordan Leopold and Third Round Pick to FLA ... Drew Shore Picked 44th ... Josh Birkholz 67th

Jaybo7 Jay Bouwmeester is gone to Calgary as defenseman Jordan Leopold comes to Florida along with the Flames third round pick.

Not too bad I suppose because basically it's a third round pick. Leopold is, like Jay, a free agent come July 1.

Now it's up to the Panthers to sign him, which I assume they want to do. So now Florida has the 44th pick in the second round and the 67th in the third.

We'll see what happens from here.

Word from Randy Sexton sometime after Florida's third round pick...

Leopoldolli -- Leopold started last season in Colorado and ended up in Calgary. In 83 games (hey, I thought they only played 82 in the NHL?), he scored seven goals with 17 assists. Last season he made $1.5 million, so if he wants to play in Florida, the money is there for him.

-- Jay Bouwmeester, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, spent the past seven seasons with the Panthers after Florida made him the third overall selection of the 2002 draft. Bouwmeester was a two-time All-Star and a member of the Canadian Olympic team in 2006.

Bouwmeester played in all 82 games for the Panthers in each of the past four seasons.

Shore -- With their second round pick, the Panthers took US center Drew Shore. A member of the US developmental team, Shore was ranked 28th among North American skaters.

-- With Calgary's pick, Florida takes winger Josh Birkholz who will attend the University of MiBirkholz nesota next year. Birkholz becomes the third American to join the Florida organization in the past hour or so, joining Leopold and Shore.

U-S-A...

--The Panthers have made some deals and picked up two more picks. Here's what we got today: A lot of Americans and a lot of forwards.

C DREW SHORE

How acquired: Second round pick, 44th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Denver

The skinny: A good playmaking center, Shore had 32 assists in 62 games with the United States Developmental Program team last season, scoring 17 points in 17 international games. Shore will attend the University of Denver in his hometown next season.

LW JOSH BIRKHOLZ

How acquired: Third round pick, 67th overall

Age, hometown: 18; St. Louis Park, Minn.

The skinny: A speedy skater, Birkholz scored 21 goals with 15 assists in 55 games with the Fargo Force of the USHL last season. Birkholz will stay close to home and attend the University of Minnesota next season.

LW GARRETT WILSON

How acquired: Fourth round pick, 107th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Barrie, Canada

The skinny: Wilson has good size and is said to have a good nose for the net. Wilson played 53 games for the Owen Sound Attack in 2008-09, scoring 17 goals with 18 assists winning his team's award for leadership and perseverance.

C CORBAN KNIGHT

How acquired: Fourth round pick, 135th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Oliver, British Columbia

The skinny: Knight led all rookies and finished eighth in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 72 points (34-38-72) in 61 games. He also finished tied for third in playoff goals (10). Knight will play at the University of North Dakota in the 2010-11 season.


C WADE MEGAN

How acquired: Fifth round pick, 138th overall

Age, hometown: 17; Canton, N.Y.

The skinny: An obvious prospect, Megan played high school hockey the past two seasons at the
South Kent School in Connecticut. He scored 27 goals in 32 games last season.

C SCOTT TIMMINS

How acquired: Sixth round pick, 165th overall

Age, hometown: 19; Hamilton, Ontario

The skinny: A former player of coach Pete DeBoer with the Kitchener Rangers, Timmins split last season with the Rangers and Windsor, scoring 35 goals. Timmins is eligible to play in the Panthers' minor league system next season.



June 26, 2009

LIVE! From Montreal, It's The Draft ... Meet New Panther Dmitry Kulikov ... Islanders take John Tavares No. 1 ... Philly Gets Chris Pronger

Draft1 MONTREAL -- Happy Friday from the Center Bell, home of the Montreal Martins.

Jacques is in the house, as is Roberto Luongo. The former Florida goalie is sitting at the Vancouver draft table. He looks bored.

I may look bored too, but I'm not. No, no. I'm excited to be here. Hope we get some trades soon.

Am very interested in seeing who the Islanders take. If it is defenseman Victor Hedman (which I don't think it will be), I hear Tampa Bay will send its second pick to Toronto to take defenseman Brayden Schenn.

We'll see what happens. Enjoy Versus (err, TSN's) coverage tonight.

And stay tuned right here throughout the night...

-- Word is more than 15,000 have crammed into the Coliseum on Long Island to watch the Islanders make the first pick. If it's not John Tavares (which more and more people here are opining that it won't be) there may be a riot in Uniondale. Save the Marriott!

-- They just showed Vinny Lecavalier on the big screen, a video of him being drafted. Loud ovation from a pro-Montreal crowd that obviously wants him back. The Lightning may just send him home..

-- Got a look at the Panthers new third jersey. Just kidding, I didn't....

-- Gary Bettman booed lustily despite his attempt to speak French. And they misspelled his name on the big screen. Hello Garry...

-- Word on the street: Chris Pronger traded to the Flyers. Scratch them off the JayBo list...

-- Saw Mike Keenan and Steve Yzerman out in Montreal last night. They both send their best...

--The Isles are on the clock...lets see what they do...

-- It's John Tavares No. 1 to the Islanders...let the party begin on Long Island...

-- Now we have the Lightning (Hedman), Colorado (Matt Duchene), Atlanta and Los Angeles.

-- The place is pretty full here. Must be nothing to do in Montreal on a Friday night. OK, that's not true.

--Just heard a rumor that Jay has been dealt...haven't been able to confirm and have no other details...am working on it...

--Still just a rumor...no one with the Panthers will confirm anything...

--We're up to pick No. 10 with Edmonton...Panthers coming up soon at No. 14

-- The Islanders just traded up with Minnesota, now have the 12th pick...

--Scott Moore is still there, and the Panthers are on the clock...

AND TAKE Dmitry Kulikov with the 14th overall pick...the kid played at Drummondville and is here...will have more after we speak with him...Big kid...

OK, on tight deadline here, so this is what I wrote regarding Florida's draft so far:

BY GEORGE RICHARDS

grichards@MiamiHerald.com


MONTREAL – For the first time in years, the Panthers didn't make a blockbuster deal at the NHL Draft.

That big trade still could be forthcoming, but for the moment, Florida just handled its draft like most other NHL teams and went about building for the future. A potential trade for the negotiating rights to All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is said to be in the works, something Florida could swing Saturday when the second round kicks off.

On Friday, with no trade to announce and the 14th overall pick, the Panthers took Dmitry Kulikov, an 18-year-old defenseman whom scouting director Scott Luce said may just compete for a roster spot when the Panthers hold training camp in a few months. If Kulikov doesn't make the Panthers – an organization deep with defensemen as it is – he will likely return to play with Drummondville of the Quebec junior league.

As the draft was held in Montreal, the Panthers received loud applause when they selected Kulikov, a native of Lipetsk, Russia.

''I came here to improve my game, learn a new style of game. Everything was new, the country, the style of play,'' said Kulikov, who left his family behind in Russia when he decided to come to Quebec to improve his game. ''This was a closer step to the NHL for me. I'm an offensive defenseman who never forgets my responsibility in my own zone. I'm defense first but if I see a chance, I can do it.''

Luce was especially high on Kulikov, saying he is projected to quarterback the power play. Kulikov had a strong rookie season with Drummondville, scoring 12 goals with 50 assists in 57 games. But in training camp, he's going to have plenty of competition for a roster spot with Florida expecting to give plenty of opportunity to more seasoned players like Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby.

The competition doesn't seem to worry Kulikov.

''My goal is to play in the NHL next year,'' he said. ''We'll see what's going on. I love the hard work. .-.-. To make an NHL team you have to be better than someone else. That's my goal, to be better and make the NHL team this year.''

Added Luce: ''[Coach] Pete DeBoer is going to be pleasantly surprised in what we have packaged here for him in training camp. He's going to challenge for a spot.''

The Panthers took a gamble on Kulikov as Russian players have been increasingly returning to play professionally in the rival Continental Hockey League. Luce says Kulikov making the move to Canada to play junior hockey shows his commitment to playing in the NHL as Kulikov says he and his agent decided to make that move so more NHL scouts could see him play. Kulikov, who speaks clear English, adds that learning the North American game was also a reason for his big move.

''He's mature beyond his years, a very worldly young man,'' said Luce. ''His adjustment to North America was very quick and that speaks to his character. This guy can rush the puck, run the power play and is good defensively. We did extensive due diligence on this, with his coaches here and with his coaches in Russia. He's a very motivated young man to come to North America, and when he turns pro, bring his family to North America.''

The biggest news involving the Panthers at this year's draft was that the team didn't move Bouwmeester's negotiating rights. Florida knows it won't sign the All-Star defenseman as he is due to become a free agent on July 1. The Panthers had been in talks with Philadelphia, but those ended when the Flyers made a huge move in trading for Chris Pronger.

'We're going to take our time and do things in an orderly fashion,'' Sexton said prior to the draft's start. ''We're going to see what happens. Tonight's only the first round. A lot of guys I talked to are not interested in moving their first round pick. I think that's because of the economic times and the cap being deeply rooted. There was no internal deadline, no yikes! if we don't get it done by 7 o'clock.''

Bouwmeester's agent has said his client will wait until July 1 to sign with a team, although acting general manager Randy Sexton said Friday that Bouwmeester's agent had given him a list of teams Bouwmeester would be interested in.

''They were quite anxious to speak to other teams,'' Sexton said, adding he hadn't spoken to Bouwmeester's agent in more than a week. ''He gave us a list before, a clear picture of his criteria. A couple teams on the list met that criteria then but don't know. For us, it would make sense for us to move him to a team where we think he would like to go to.''

Randy Sexton: No Rush on Jay Bouwmeester

Jaybo5 MONTREAL -- Acting general manager Randy Sexton says the Panthers do not have to move Jay Bouwmeester's rights tonight because in talks he's had no team is willing to give up a first round pick anyway.

The second through seventh rounds are tomorrow.

Sexton also said that he hasn't talked to Jay's agent in a week and that Bryon Baltimore was more than willing to talk to other teams on Jay's behalf not too long ago. Also, Baltimore gave Sexton a list of teams Jay would go to, but rather conditions such as the competitiveness of that team and such.

So cross Tampa Bay and Phoenix off that list.

''We're going to take our time and do things in an orderly fashion,'' Sexton said. ''We're going to see what happens.

''Tonight's only the first round. A lot of guys I talked to are not interested in moving their first round pick. I think that's because of the economic times and the cap being deeply rooted. There was no internal deadline, no yikes! if we don't get it done by 7 o'clock.

''I haven't talked to him in the past seven or eight days,'' Sexton said of Baltimore. ''They want to talk to other teams. They absolutely are.''

What about his agent saying he won't sign until July 1?

''That wasn't his position not too long ago. I have not heard that. And no team should be speaking to him to see what their position is because we have a thing in this league called tampering. Secondly, I spoke to him not too long ago. They were quite anxious to speak to other teams.

''He gave us a list before, a clear picture of his criteria. A couple teams on the list met that criteria then but don't know. For us, it would make sense for us to move him to a team where we think he would like to go to.''

-- Sexton added that only a few teams are willing to move up in the draft and he doesn't expect the Panthers to move up from 14th, although based on who is still around, they could move down.

Stay tuned.

-- Also, there's a Panther party tonight at the Weston Ale House. Good times, good wings. Tell J.P. I said what up...

Jay Bouwmeester May Remain with Panthers (For Just a Few More Days)

Jaybo4 MONTREAL -- The newest rumor I am hearing is that Jay Bouwmeester has become all but untradeable, his agent again telling prospective employers that Jay will not sign with anyone until he hits the open market on July 1.

This is a scenario I have spelled out numerous times, both here and on various radio shows. Honestly, if Jay isn't going to sign until July 1, what worth do his exclusive negotiating rights have?

We may find that out soon enough.

On a similar note, I have a 2004 Pontiac for sale if anyone is interested.

That may have more value than Jay's negotiating rights.

-- Other rumors from around Montreal: It's expected that JM the ex-GM will formally hire Pierre Groulx as his goalie coach next week. Perry Pearn, JM's former assistant coach in Ottawa, is also expected to join the staff.

-- Another rumor from Montreal: Poutine is said to be good. I have not found that rumor to be true.

Feel free to discuss.

Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary? Doug Risebrough to Panthers? Craig Anderson in Homestead ... Rumors, Rumors and now, more Rumors!

Bo MONTREAL -- Been making some calls, wondering the hotel today trying to figure out what's going on with the Panthers.

One person I spoke with seems to think Bo is off to Calgary if only because Florida thinks Jay will sign there and can get the best deal out of the Flames. Yet another says Philadelphia is offering some nice baubles and another continues to think Bo will end up hanging out with Louie in Vancouver.

I have read that San Jose is in the mix, but of the people I have spoken to, no one has mentioned the Sharks. But who knows. Honestly, out of all of these markets, San Jose might just be the best fit for Jay and his shy personality. It's a good hockey market, but it's not red-hot crazy like Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.

-- I have also heard that Doug Risebrough, the former GM in Minnesota, is the leader to become the new GM of the Panthers. He's already met with Bill Torrey twice, and those who know Doug say he thinks he's the frontrunner. He's apparently going to meet with Alan Cohen next week.

Which brings up this little nugget: If the Panthers sale is still going forward, why is the GM candidate going to meet with the outgoing owner? I've been told Alan Cohen had already cleared out his office at The Billboard. Maybe he's moving back in?

-- The NHLPA has set next year's salary cap at $56.8 million. Let the spending begin. Or not. Word is, teams are going to be more cautious this season because they figure next year's cap is going to be lower.

-- Word around town is that Toronto is shopping Tomas Kaberle, TSN saying he's off to Boston for Phil Kessel...

-- TSN also says scalpers are getting $100 for tickets to the draft. Really? There's a difference between being hockey-mad and just plain mad. It's a draft folks. Pretty boring stuff.

-- Follow On Frozen Pond on Twitter. It's fun and it's free. And apparently, all the cool kids are doing it.

@OnFrozenPond

-- Craig Anderson will be a special guest at the Homestead-Miami Speedway tonight as they kick off their special road racing Friday night program. It's a great idea; they're opening the track and garages for amateur street races on the front stretch. Better than drag racing down Pines Boulevard. This might just save a few lives...

-- More throughout the day and night here in beautiful Montreal...

June 25, 2009

Hanging in Montreal ... Lots Going On ... Jay Bouwmeester a Former Panther Soon ... Mike Keenan Says Hello

Expos MONTREAL -- Just got back from the prospects luncheon where I met a number of the guys who will be taken in tomorrow's first round.

Good group of players, no doubt. We'll see if the Panthers are able to sneak higher into the draft and take one.

If Florida stays at No. 14, one player to look for is defenseman John Moore out of Chicago. Kid is a pretty good player. Signed to play at Colorado College next year, but he says he's open to playing junior hockey if a team wants him to. Apparently every team does.

-- Word on the street is the Panthers sale to the Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. is done, with Tony Tavares -- who is part of that group -- already reported to be part of a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes.

I have now heard that Tavares is set to be part of the Phoenix deal with Jerry Reinsdorf, but that will have nothing to do with the Panthers other than Tavares would have to excuse himself from SPAC.

Finally got to talk to Michael Yormark today, and as he's done throughout this entire process, he refused to comment on anything regarding the sale. He did tell me that ''it's business as usual'' with the Panthers, and that the GM search is ongoing. They are taking their time.

-- The Jay Bouwmeester rumors are running rampant up here, with my people telling me that Philadelphia really wants Jay and are will to make some moves. Also have heard Vancouver is seriously in the mix and that the Canucks feel confident they would be able to get Jay to sign there with little problem.

Jay may be a former Panther within the next few hours, although I wouldn't be surprised to see this linger into tomorrow. The draft isn't until tomorrow night, so there's no rush. Well, OK, there is a little rush.

-- Ran into Mike Keenan outside the hotel here in Montreal. He looks tan and fit as usual, and says he's glad he's not in South Florida right now. Because of the weather. I do not blame him. It's Texas hot. It's warm here, but it's like our winter.

-- Spoke with Pierre McGuire regarding the Florida GM search and he says he has not spoken to Mr. Torrey yet. Which is strange, because I think the Panthers are real high on him. But with a break in the action, this is not so strange after all.

June 19, 2009

Panthers Trade with Phoenix II .... Steve Reinprecht Signs 3-Year Deal ... Stefan Meyer to the Desert Dogs

Reinprecht Pantherland is all a-Twitter this morning after the team sent out a cryptic message that big news is coming soon.

The big news: Drumroll....

Florida trades Stefan Meyer to Phoenix in exchange for the negotiating rights to center Steve Reinprecht, a pending free agent. The Panthers then signed Reinprecht to a three-year deal.

''He's a speed guy and we wanted to increase our overall team speed,'' acting GM Randy Sexton said on a conference call. ''Nathan Horton did a good job for us at center last year, but that was an experiment. We had mixed results. Rein2 He's a shooter, not really a set-up guy. We needed another center to go along with Stephen [Weiss]. He's a bonafide NHL center and will help guys like Horton, Frolik and Cory Stillman. He'll get them the puck.''

Reinprecht, 33, has been with the Coyotes for parts of the past four seasons. He scored 14 goals with 27 assists for the Yotes last season. In 552 career games, he has 120 goals and 214 assists. He's also a career plus-24.

The Panthers aren't going to give out the numbers, but I hear he signed for an average of just over $2 million over the course of the deal.

"We've upgraded our team,'' Sexton said, adding that Keith Ballard had nothing but good things to say about Reinprecht. ''He adds a lot of what we need. We feel strongly that he's going to be able to help us.''

According to Sexton, the deal with Phoenix was completed on Thursday, with the Panthers working with Reinprecht's agent last night to get the contract done.

Reinprecht is vacationing off the coast of Spain but should be back within cellphone range early next week.

June 18, 2009

Richard Zednik Does Not Win the Masterton ... NHL Awards Show LIVE from Vega$ on Versus Now (well, until 9 p.m.)

Zednik2Richard Zednik didn't win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy on Thursday night, Nashville's Steve Sullivan getting it instead.

This is a little bit of a surprise, but Sullivan is a trooper and very deserving of this award.

But I thought Z was as well. Some will wonder how much his signing with a Russian team went into this. I don't think it did. The Pro Hockey Writers voted on it before the Russian deal went down.

Sullivan obviously deserved this and is a good guy to boot. Three good choices for this award as Chris Chelios was also a finalist. He can win it next year!

Here's what I wrote when he was nominated for the Masterton Award on April 1:

Florida winger Richard Zednik has been selected by the Florida chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association as the team's nominee for the annual Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance in returning to the ice after a horrific injury on Feb. 10, 2008.

Zednik, who sustained a severed carotid artery after being accidentally cut by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate, missed the end of the 2007-08 season but returned this season. Zednik scored in the second period of Tuesday's game, his 200th career goal.

''I'm pretty surprised, I can't believe it,'' Zednik said Tuesday morning. ``It's a great honor to be nominated for a trophy. We'll see what happens. It's a nice surprise.''

The Panthers have never had a player win the Masterton, an award given annually to the NHL player who ''best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.'' The award honors the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who died on Jan. 15, 1968, as a result of an on-ice injury. The award will be given out at the 2009 NHL Awards show June 18 in Las Vegas.

''Until your are in a situation like that, you don't know how you would react,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. 'You could make a pretty good case for saying, `I made enough money.' He'd be able to put his feet up, enjoy his wife and kids and call it a career. I give him all the credit in the world. He jumped right back in the fire.''

Added Zednik: ``I never had a question that I wouldn't come back. I was even more eager to come back and prove I could still play the way I was playing before.''

This is what NHL.com had to say about Steve Sullivan and his dedication and obvious love for the game:

Sullivan played his first game this past season on Jan. 10, 687 days after he fragmented a spinal disc in a game against the Canadiens. He missed 142 games while he underwent two back surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. Sullivan's ability to resume his career was in serious doubt.

But he made it back and played in every game the rest of the season, except the game after his first game back. Sullivan had 11 goals and 21 assists in 41 games, a 0.78 points-per-game that was just slightly lower than his 0.8 points-per-game career average.

He was plus-2, had two game-winning goals and three power-play goals. Sullivan either scored or assisted on 11 goals that gave his team the lead and three goals that tied games. He beat the Kings with an overtime goal on March 28.

Here's what they wrote about Zednik:

There have been few more frightening sights in NHL history than Zednik having his carotid artery nearly severed by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate on Feb. 28, 2008 in a game against the Sabres in Buffalo. Jokinen tripped over a rival player and his foot went high in the air, catching the unsuspecting Zednik in the throat.

Zednik kept his wits about him and quickly skated to his bench, where assistant trainer David Zenobi clamped a towel on his throat and teammate Jassen Cullimore helped carry him to the dressing room. Buffalo team doctor Les Bisson attended Zednik there and he was taken to Buffalo General Hospital where vascular surgeon Richard Curl and attending surgeon Sonya Noor repaired the wound.

By the time surgery started, Zednik had lost about five pints of blood and had gone into shock, with a high pulse and low-blood pressure. Doctors weren't far from losing him and said after surgery that it was a miracle that Jokinen's sharp skate blade hadn't also cut his jugular vein.

The team response was great. Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton accompanied Zednik to the hospital and Karen Cohen, wife of Alan Cohen, the Panthers' general partner, chairman of the board and CEO, flew from Florida to Buffalo with Zednik's wife, Jessica, on a chartered flight.

The hockey community went to bed that night not knowing Zednik's fate and breathed a sigh of relief the following morning when reports said Zednik was resting in stable condition and able to talk. He remembered the incident clearly.

Zednik had been badly injured earlier in the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he caught an elbow in the face from an off-balance Kyle McLaren and suffered a concussion, broken nose, bruised throat and cut eyelid. He was carried unconscious from the ice and spent the night in intensive care. He came back to have a career year the next season, scoring 31 goals and adding 19 assists.

He came back this season to score 17 goals and add 16 assists while going plus-2. Zednik has 200 goals and 179 assists for 379 points in 745 games.

Bill Torrey Speaks: Say Goodbye to Jay Bouwmeester

Torrey2 Bill Torrey, who is leading the search for the Panthers new general manager, spoke to the Florida beat writers today on a conference call to update us on the search.

So far, Mr. Torrey has interviewed a few people saying he spent a few days in Toronto. He'll be meeting with more people next week in T.O. and Montreal as well.

He also alluded to the trade of Jay Bouwmeester's exclusive rights, saying he expects to be on the phone all weekend. He added that assistant GM Randy Sexton is working the phones as well.

"We're at the point where decisions have to be made and we have to move ahead,'' Torrey said. ''We're working on the process.''

He won't rush this process, he says, because he would rather be long than be wrong.Torrey adds that he has about 60 legitimate applicants for the gig.

"It's been a very interesting process,'' he said. "I thought there would be quite a bit of interest in the job, have over 60 inquiries one way or another.

''I've gotten far enough along, starting to do face to face interviews. I want to get to the point where the serious candidates are personally interviewed, perhaps more than once. There are very few who I don't know something about previously.''

On not naming names:

"It will encumber the process, slow it a bit and create some situations I don't really need. I have been given permission by teams to talk to people, but they don't what those names out there. I promised I wouldn't. So what's good for some is good for all.

"I've spoken to Alan and the ownership here, they understand the circumstances. We have this issue [draft, free agency], that they've asked me to participate in. It's a very busy week. I won't complete the process before the draft. I will meet people up north next week. We're moving along well. Interest is very encouraging.

''I would like be able to announce it tomorrow in a certain sense, but this is too important a hiring. This franchise will benefit from stability. I hope the man I pick will be here a long time and bring this franchise a lot of success.

"I want this hire to be as permanent as it can be in this business. We have stability behind the bench, with our scouting staff. I've been impressed with how they've dug in and prepared for the draft. We're moving ahead in all areas.

"We have a few decision that have to be made before the first of July. The process is going to go forth. Most important thing is finding the right person. We have some good people in place, and that's different. I've made that clear to the candidates. Pete DeBoer is going to be our coach and so on down the line. I haven't heard a single negative about that by anyone. Everyone was really impressed with the job Peter did. People in hockey have known him for years. He's a real benefit.

''It's my responsibility to identify the best candidate. I've been in touch with present ownership as well as prospective ownership. They are aware of what we're doing and where we're at. They seem very comfortable with it.''

Well Cross Him Off Then: Rick Dudley to the ATL

Dudley Craig Custance of the Sporting News continues to break one Atlanta story after another, today reporting that Rick Dudley is going to become the assistant GM of the Thrashers.

Custance, who used to cover the Thrash for the AJC before going to the Sporting News, says he's not going to replace Don Waddell since Waddell is the guy who made the hiring. Still, have to think Duds figures he's going to be running things there eventually.

Dudley, the former Florida GM, was interested in the Florida opening although he told Brian Biggane a few weeks ago that he had already had something else lined up. Looks like that was in Atlanta. After leaving the Panthers (and being replaced by Mike Keenan back in 2004), Dudley moved to the Blackhawks where he eventually became Chicago's assistant GM.

Talking to Bill Torrey here in a few minutes. Don't expect much earth shattering news, but will update here when we're done talking.

Come on back, ya hear?

June 17, 2009

Talking Hockey on a Wednesday ... Richard Zednik Likely Gone ... Panthers Budget: Good

Slapshot Good afternoon hockey fans, hope your summer is treating you well so far.

For those of us stuck in South Florida, all I can say is ugh.

I am so looking forward to going to Montreal next week.

Just got off the phone with Florida's acting general manager. Randy Sexton and I went over a number of things regarding the Florida Panthers, and as always, I though I would share with you.

First off, Randy wouldn't get into the search for a new GM nor his place in that search. He simply told me that he wants the full-time job and Bill Torrey is aware of this. As far as I'm concerned, I think Randy has a nice little advantage over all the people applying for this gig. First off, Randy knows the organization inside and out. But the main advantage is the fact that he's actually doing the job right now. No one else can say that.

Anywho, let's get started.

-- First off, Randy told me the budget for next year is very close to last year's budget (the Panthers were about $2 million shy of the cap ceiling). That's good news for the Panthers.

''We have a healthy budget for next year,'' he said. ''It's very close to last year. It offends me when I see things written and said about us and our ownership. Mr. Alan Cohen and our ownership group have stepped up by building us a beautiful new facility and have stepped up with our payroll. We all want to win here. There's no excuses. We are assembling a team to make the playoffs, guys have to do it.''

-- Florida also had Bryan McCabe's $2 million bonus (paid in Maple Leaf bucks) count against last year's cap.

Zednik -- Randy says he has spoken to Richard Zednik's agent and while there is an out clause in the Russian contract Zednik signed a few months ago, the agent doesn't think Zednik is going to opt out. Zednik appears pretty set on playing in Russia next year. So, good luck with that Z.

-- Negotiations with David Booth on a new contract are ongoing. Randy couldn't give me a timetable and it sounds like the two sides are apart on money. That, and perhaps years, have to be the main sticking point right? Booth wants to be here, the Panthers want him here. So it comes down to the money and the years. It should be worked out.

Andy4 -- Randy said he spoke to Craig Anderson ''last night and we had a really good talk.'' Anderson says he wants to be in Florida, but he also wants to be a starting goalie. ''

He wants to be here, if we can make that work, we will. Guys play their careers to be a UFA and we respect that.''

-- As far as Jay Bouwmeester goes, well, status quo. ''I've had some conversations with his agent,'' Sexton said. ''It's a work in progress.''

OK.

-- As far as the draft goes, Randy doesn't seem married to the 14th overall pick. He says he's approached some GMs about trading up, and he's been contacted about trading down. Randy said Florida will have a first round pick this year, it just may not be No. 14.

"There are ways to improve the team. We like what we hear, we will be prepared for every scenario. If nothing happens, we think we'll get a real good player at 14.''

-- As far as the recent development camp goes, Randy said it was the best collection of talent the Panthers have ever had. That is a good sign for this organization for sure. "It's exciting, I'm pumped to see the good number of kids, their skill level. All these kids are Florida Panthers. That's exciting.''

Frolikbo -- Randy had plenty of praise for breakout rookie Michael Frolik who not only attended the development camp, but ''was the hardest working kid out there. What a great example to the kids. He worked his tail off.''

-- Top goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom (who should be on the roster in 2010-11) wasn't able to participate on the ice during the camp because of knee surgery. But he still impressed.

''He has such presence and is a real leader. This kid is a pro. Someone said he was the pied piper of camp. Every time you saw him, he had five or six people with Markstrom him. He's getting good development, playing a professional game.

''There will still have to be some adjustment to the North American game. It's not just the size of the rink, but the way the game is played. He'll have to get used to traffic in front of the net. The style of play will take some adjustment. We're not going to rush anyone. If they need seasoning, they'll get it.''

-- More later. Also have a big story coming out tomorrow on the new training facility at Incredible Ice. It is sweet, one of the best such facilities in the league. A real first-class deal for the Panthers. A showcase, really. We have pictures and stuff, will link to them when they are up.




June 15, 2009

Staying Arizona: Coyotes in Glendale (For Now) ... Lots of Eyes on Game 7 ... Odds? We Got Odds

Raisingarizona The Phoenix Coyotes are staying in Arizona at least for a little while as a bankruptcy judge ruled against Jim Balsillie by saying the Canadian billionaire's deadline of June 29 was just too soon to deal with the many problems surrounding the case.

The NHL said in a statement that they are going to find an owner for the team and try and make the Coyotes a viable franchise in the NHL.

Balsillie wanted to pull the Coyotes out of Chapter 11 with an offer of $215 mil and then move them to Hamilton, Ontario. The only way he would buy the team is if he could move them; the deadline was so the team could be in Canada in time for the upcoming season.

"We're pleased the Court recognized the validity of league rules and our ability to apply them in a reasonable fashion," the NHL's Bill Daly said in an email. ''We will turn our attention now toward helping to facilitate an orderly sales process that will produce a local buyer who is committed to making the Coyotes' franchise viable and successful in the Phoenix/Glendale area. We are confident that we will be able to find such a buyer for the Coyotes and that the claims of legitimate creditors will be addressed."

-- My Tip of the Day: If you haven't seen The Hangover yet, leave your house now and find a theater.

-- This from our friends at NBC and the NHL:

Friday night’s deciding Game 7 of the Stanley
Cup Final on NBC Sports was the most-watched NHL game in 36 years (5/10/73, Stanley Cup Final Game 6 on NBC, Montreal-Chicago, 9.4 million) drawing an average of 8 million viewers. Overall, the series averaged 5.6 million viewers for the five games on NBC, the best since 2002 on ABC (three telecasts, Detroit-Carolina, 5.8 million average viewers).
NBC Sports’ Game 7 finished No. 1 for the night in every category including viewership and household ratings.

Competitive Notes:
NBC won Friday night by a margin of 191 percent in Adults 18-49 (3.2 vs.1.1 for second-place CBS) and by 41 percent in total viewers (7.7
million vs. CBS's 5.5 million).

The broadcast of Game 7 beat the ABC-CBS-Fox competition combined in
Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, Men 18-34, Women 18-34, Men 18-49 and Men
25-54.

The 3.2 rating in Adults 18-49 makes this NBC's top-rated Friday night
since the Beijing Olympics last August.

-- Now that the Stanley Cup Finals are over, who is going to win next year? Well, bodog.com likes the Red Wings to bounce back and win the deal. Pittsburgh is close. Who you like?

Odds to win the 2009/2010 Stanley Cup

Detroit Red Wings                      5/1

Pittsburgh Penguins                  7/1

San Jose Sharks                       8/1

Boston Bruins                            9/1

Chicago Blackhawks                  10/1

Washington Capitals                  10/1

Vancouver Canucks                  15/1

Philadelphia Flyers                     16/1

New Jersey Devils                      18/1

Calgary Flames                         20/1

Anaheim Ducks                         22/1

Carolina Hurricanes                    25/1

New York Rangers                     25/1

Dallas Stars                              30/1

Montreal Canadiens                   30/1

Minnesota Wild                          35/1

St. Louis Blues                          35/1

Buffalo Sabres                           40/1

Columbus Blue Jackets              40/1

Edmonton Oilers                        40/1

Florida Panthers                        40/1

Ottawa Senators                        45/1

Nashville Predators                    50/1

Los Angeles Kings                     60/1

Toronto Maple Leafs                   60/1

Colorado Avalanche                    70/1

Atlanta Thrashers                       80/1

Tampa Bay Lightning                  80/1

Phoenix Coyotes                       85/1

New York Islanders                    100/1

Welcome to the First Monday of Hockey Summer ... Gearing up for the Draft ... What's Going on in Pantherland?

Crosbypirates Happy Monday to all of you in Pantherland. If you are like me, you're a little bummed hockey season is officially over.

Sure, it's been over for a lot of us for a long time, but I'm going to miss watching the great game on television as I have the past couple of months. Guess it's time for some summer vacation -- or, at least, some more summer vacation.

I'm thinking of going fishing. Fishing for golf balls that I hit in the lakes and canals around Broward County that is.

Have been making a few calls and checking on things around the Panthers these past few weeks, but haven't learned much that could be considered earth shattering.

Here are a few nuggets that I have heard. There will be more this week. I know I haven't posted much of late, but that's going to change this week. Keep coming back if you would. Much appreciated.

-- As I wrote last week, the Panthers are expecting to have a lower payroll next year, although it won't be anything near the salary floor as the Tampa Bay Lightning are rumored to be at. Florida loses $2 million right off the bat because of Bryan McCabe's bonus, but that will be absorbed by David Booth's raise. Florida is also losing Jay Bouwmeester's salary, but that will be picked up somewhere else.

Even though Richard Zednik can apparently return to the Panthers, the thought is Florida won't be able to match that money. If Zednik comes back, it's because his wife realizes what Russia is like in the winter compared to Boca. No work on the possible return of Radek Dvorak or Ville Peltonen. I would think one of these three return, possibly two. Florida wants to see what youngsters Shawn Matthias and Michal Repik can do with a legitimate shot to earn a roster slot.

--  A lot has been made of Florida announcing that Pete DeBoer is part of the solution here and the new general manager having to deal with that as a negative. I'm hearing the exact opposite. Pete DeBoer being here in Florida is a positive to the GM candidates. DeBo is looked at as a real rising star in the league, a young coach who is easy to work with.

I have yet to talk to Mr. Torrey, but I'm hearing Rick Dudley and Doug MacLean have already been in talks, and I'm sure Denis Potvin and Mr. Torrey have spoken as well. Former Minnesota GM Doug Risebrough and Minnesota finalist and TV analyst Pierre McGuire are also supposedly in play. The Panthers have apparently been talking to the Minnesota people and getting their thoughts on things, with the NHL's clearinghouse also helping along with the background search stuff.

I know Dudley, Potvin and McGuire would really work well with DeBoer, with the latter two being a big help with off-ice stuff in the community and stuff. I know certain people don't like to hear this, but the game still needs to be sold down here, and Potvin and McGuire -- oh, and especially MacLean -- would be real good at getting out there and helping that out.

Expecting to speak to Mr. Torrey in the coming days and will update. Also hope to speak to Randy Sexton soon -- although he's been a very busy guy. There have been reports that he is not a candidate for this gig, but he's been working real hard behind the scenes the past few years and I don't think that's the case.

-- As far as the ownership thing goes, there have been reports that the SPAG deal is falling apart; I don't think that's true. From what I hear, Alan Cohen is working to get some fresh local money involved to buy out some of his minority partners who want out. I didn't think Mr. Cohen really wanted to get out, but I know some of his partners do. If Mr. Cohen can find local money and remain majority owner, I think that's the route he would rather take. But that may not be feasible, and then the SPAG money comes back into play.

-- More as things pop up, hope you are having a good Monday.

Photo courtesy of Michael Henninger/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

June 08, 2009

More Changes: Pierre Groulx, Andy O'Brien OUT ... No Salary Dump ... Coaching Staff (mostly) Intact

Pierre The Panthers lost a couple more good guys this week.

Pierre Groulx, the team's goalie coach the past two seasons, told me today that he was relieved of his duties as his contract was not renewed. Groulx, who is pictured at left as the 'Fake Eddie Belfour,' just got back from the team's prospect development camp.

He was informed of Pete DeBoer's decision on Saturday; DeBoer was the one who made the call and informed Pierre of his decision.

''This was my decision,'' DeBoer said. ''When I took this job, I inherited some coaches under contract. Guy Charron, Pierre, Mike Kitchen. The only move we made then was with Guy. The other guys we wanted to give a year, see how we worked together. We want to go in a different direction.

''Last year was the first year I had a full-time goalie coach. We want to go wPierre2ith a part-time guy, more of a consultant. A lot of teams around the league have consultant-type goalie coaches. Detroit is one. Last year, I found sometimes there wasn't enough to do to justify a full-time guy.''

Pierre said he kind of saw this coming, but hoped things could be worked out. Pierre's wife Wendy recently gave birth to twins, the couple's first children. So, what we have here is a very good guy -- and a good coach -- with a young family looking for work.

He's confident in what he does and what he has done and feels he'll be back in the league somewhere next year. A couple of teams are looking for goalie coaches, and interestingly enough, the Canadiens fired their coach around the time they brought in one Jacques Martin to be their head coach.

I would bet JM at least has a meeting with Pierre sometime soon. Hey, they're both in the same area code.

''Pierre was very good at what he did and did a good job for us,'' DeBoer said. ''It's obvious he and Jacques have a very good working relationship. I'm sure that will continue.''

Pierre said he enjoyed his time with the Panthers and has no ill will toward the organization. He hopes they keep making strides and moving forward -- even though it appears they've been taking a few steps back this summer.

''I had a great time with the Panthers and wish them nothing but the best,'' Groulx said. ''I am disappointed they decided to make this move, but that's part of the profession. This happens to coaches all the time. I know we had pretty good goaltending while I was here, so I'm happy with that. I look forward to new opportunities and new challenges. I want to continue coaching in the NHL. It just won't happen in South Florida.''

Andyobrien -- Strength coach Andy O'Brien is also leaving the organization, DeBoer telling me he took a job outside the NHL. A position, the coach said, was something Andy could not turn down. So good for him.

''Andy's one of the best in the business,'' DeBoer said. ''We're going to miss him.''

O'Brien, best known for being Sidney Crosby's personal trainer, had been with the Panthers since 2005. He helped run the developmental camp in Ontario that just completed.

-- DeBoer also said that rumors that the Panthers were going into a salary dump were not true. He says there has been no indication that the ongoing potential sale of the team is going to affect things too much, although the Panthers will likely see a lower payroll next year.

A lot of teams are going to be saying the same thing.

''Everyone is going to take a haircut this year just because of the economy,'' DeBoer said. ''Well, everyone except for Toronto, the Rangers, Montreal. Those kind of teams.''

-- While DeBoer looks for a new goalie coach and a strength coach, he says that's going to do it for staff changes for the coming year. That means Mike Kitchen and Jim Hulton will be back behind the bench next to DeBoer in 2009-10.

June 07, 2009

The Rumor Mill

Word from a friend on the border: Chicago assistant GM - and former Florida GM - Rick Dudley boarded a flight in Buffalo bound for South Florida. Stay tuned...