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Randy Sexton: We're Fine. Really? ... Karlis Skrastins to Dallas ... There's Money to Spend ... Despite All This, Cats are No. 90

Airplane7 Are the Florida Panthers better or worse today than they were yesterday.

I'm going with worse. Hard to believe, eh?

On behalf of the fans of the Florida Panthers who have been flooding my email box as well as our comment sections, I hope acting GM Randy Sexton is still working on something.

Because as this team stands right now, I cannot see the Panthers being a legitimate playoff threat.

Right now I see the Panthers battling Atlanta and Tampa Bay for third in the Southeastern Conference (and the way ATL finished the season, I give the Thrash the edge).

I sure don't see Florida in the same ballpark as Washington and Carolina.

Today we find out that Florida lost another solid defenseman as Karlis Skrastins is going west, joining Joe Nieuwendyk in Dallas. Skrastins signs a two-year deal worth about $1.4 per season. Have to think the Panthers offered something close or even more. If they didn't, well, they either didn't like Skrastins all that much or they are seriously pinching the pennies.

That, or Skrastins just didn't want to stay here. And I never got that impression from him.

How bad is the Florida defense right now? I have to file depth charts to The Hockey News listing eight defensemen. I can come up with six, and that's using Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby. Anyone have suggestions on who Florida's seventh and eighth defensemen are? I mean, right now? Wait a second. The Hockey News wants 10 defensemen.

OK, take a gander at this:

Keith Ballard; Bryan McCabe; Bryan Allen; Ville Koistinen; Jason Garrison; Keaton Ellerby; Dmitry Kulikov; Clay Wilson; Rory Fitzpatrick; Mike Caruso.

Yeah. See what I mean?

No wonder Scott Luce says Kulikov could battle for a roster spot this training camp. If camp started now, we'd be in September. And, he could be in the top six.

There is no way Randy Sexton can be done. Or is he? Remember, July 1 is just the start of the free agency period. There's a lot of time between the start of training camp and today. Although a lot of players are slipping away.

Getting away from the D for a second, Sexton said yesterday that Florida liked what it had as far as forwards go, and that cannot be the truth. Because if it is, he's the only one.

Florida struggled to score last season, and switching Nathan Horton back to wing and adding Steve Reinprecht to one of the top two lines isn't going to cure that. Especially when injuries get factored in, and Florida was relatively spared of major injuries last year, save for the first quarter of the season.

A few weeks ago, Sexton told me that Florida's budget was very close to last year. Not counting the $2 million the Leafs paid to Bryan McCabe, Florida spent about $52 million.

UPDATED Right now, the Panthers are at about $43 million, about $9 million under last year's real money (these are all estimates and depending on bonuses and the like, things can fluctuate).

Florida is also about $13 million under the cap, so there is plenty of room to play around. If Sexton is allowed to spend close to last year's money, there is a lot he can still do.

-- And for the record, aside from Scott Clemmensen, I like the resigning of Radek Dvorak and David Booth. But those were moves that could have been made earlier so it's hard to get too excited about them on the first day of free agency. Although it did buy the Cats some positive Canadian PR as Booth was a hot topic for a while on TSN.

And the Reinprecht move was a solid by Sexton, getting a decent center for a guy who wasn't factoring into Florida's plans much anyway. And the Bouwmeester move was probably as good as Sexton could get on Saturday, although in retrospect, he might have recieved more had the trigger been pulled say on Tuesday when teams were buzzing.

-- Note for those of you who love a lot of left turns, On Frozen Pond will turn into NASCAR Central over the next couple of days as I head to Daytona for a weekend of racing. Will be in the pits starting tomorrow morning, so tell all your racing friends to check in. Will also have hockey stuff as well. Hockey and racing. Is this Carolina?

-- In a surprising turn of events, the Panthers moved up on ESPN's Ultimate Standings, going from No. 98 in the North American pro world all the way up to No. 90! Hey, that's some heavy lifting. The Magazine ranked all 122 teams by using such criteria as 'Bang for the Buck,' ownership, affordability and stadium experience.

Florida did very well on affordability and coaching, not so much everywhere else. That's a shock.

The Panthers, ranked below Phoenix by two spots FYI, did rank above some notable NHL franchises including the Rangers, Oilers and Canadiens. Florida also ranked ahead of the Bills, Redskins, Cleveland Browns (duh) and the New York Yankees. As expected, the Clippers finished dead last. The Angels were ranked first.

Comments

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Dear Randy,

Congrats on your first (and last) draft and free agency signing day as the Acting GM. Can you honestly say that this team is better now than the team that backed into the end of the regular season last year and missed the playoffs.

Do you think that having Scott Clemmensen and Ville Koistenen instead of Jay and Craig makes us more ready to meet the Flyers, Bruins or Penguins? How about our own division. Washington signed Mike Knuble, Tampa Bay signed Mattias Ohlund, and Atlanta signed Nik Antropov. Does it get your toes to tingle thinking about Clay Wilson (who) signed to provide depth at Rochester (how did they do last year).

Do you think Keaton Ellerby, Dmitri Kulikov or Jason Garrison strike fear in the hearts of Sid the Kid, Alex the Great or Geno Malkin.

On behalf of Panther fans who haven't seen a playoff game in 8 years:

DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!

I am sure he is done, George. He is being strapped to the chair by Cohen telling him not to spend any money. This ownership is pathetic. I am sorry I renewed my season tickets for next year. We can't even sign Leopold. we gave away JayBo for a bag pucks and a 3rd round pick. I knew this season would be status quo. No free agents signed to score goals, no defensemen left. I am sick over this.

Michael Caruso and Dmitry Kulikov 7 and 8 Defensemen

We will get a top 3 pick next year. A pick we'll screw up and some other player will become a superstar.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It's amazing how D was such a "strength" of ours not too long ago.

MAybe we can bring moeller out of retirement. Or maybe we will sign chris cheolis

Hopefully Randy is done......as acting general manager and they get someone in here with a clue.

This is the same clown that ran Ottawa into the ground. Get Martin's replacement in here already....how long does it take to interview 10 candidates?

Where are the people who were crying for positivity from the fans a week ago?

S.O.S......D.F.D

I could do a better job blindfolded and for less money.

hey does anyone know the addresses of some of our people in charge. i need to take a little frustration out on them and i have alot built up from the past few weeks.

This kind of writing is why I visit OFP more than any other Cats site on the net. George, once again your honesty is appreciated.

We have so much money tied up in mediocrity. We have no one on this team who will ever score 40+ goals again, even though I do respect David Booth and I do think Nathan Horton is capable of doing so (but never will due to his laziness). We have probably the worst defensive depth of any team in our division, one year removed from being one of the best defensively-staffed teams in our division. Our spending hasn't changed much from last year in terms of overall dollars, and what have we gained? An average centerman who is at best a 2nd liner, a no-name D man who only received play time due to injury, and a capable backup goalie. What did we lose? An all-star defenseman, a shot blocking machine in Skrastins, speed and creativity in Zednik, toughness in Boynton, and a capable backup goalie. How in the hell can management let this eternally-doomed team GET WORSE?!?! You were a tiebreaker away from a playoff spot, and you not only don't bother to IMPROVE the team, you actually jettison or lose players who could help you get back there next year and MAKE the playoffs!

What really amazes me is Randy Sexton's dialogue to the media and public. How anyone in the hockey world can look at the Florida Panthers lineup and say, "They have enough scoring," is just downright unbelievable. Bill Torrey saw all he needed to see in regards to Sexton's performance and knowledge about the NHL and building a team. Get him out of here for good, and never bring him back. Please, for the love of the hockey gods, find someone who knows what they're doing. And Alan Cohen, sell the team. Get out of this business, you are awful at it. Plain and simple.

It's so hard to stay a fan of this team year in and year out. What is it about this franchise that continues to keep it mired down in the dregs of the NHL?

If they don't upgrade both the offense and the defense not only are they not better they are worse. This team will be last in the conference. There will be no fans in the arena. Panthers fans don't need Drew Rosenhaus, Panthers fans need Geoffrey Fieger to sue Panthers management for nonsupport.

the sooner doug risebrough is brought in, the better. as time goes on and the free agent pool is depleted, we'll be left with Kulikov and Ellerby as our 2nd defence pairing.

I just don't understand how the fans (biased and negative as we are) and media (GR) can see something so obvious, while management and the people in charge either don't want to see it or just don't get it. I can understand not being able to get players to sign here because we don't have a GM and ownership is in flux, but then say that. Don't claim to like the offense we have when everyone knows it sucks. Just be honest about it. The owners don't want to pay big bucks because we don't know who's going to be around next season. Fine. I can accept that a heck of a lot easier then "I like our top 6, we're fine with scoring. Having 4 d-men signed is cool..."

Sigh.

How can the Panthers only be $3 million off last year's payroll? Off the books: Bouwmeester ($5mil) Skrastins ($2.5 mil) Boynton ($3 mil) Eminger ($1mil) Zednik ($1.5 mil) Peltonen ($1.5 mil) Anderson ($500k) Stewart ($900k) and half of McLean's salary ($850k)

On the books: Clemmensen ($1.3 mil) Koistinen ($1mil) Booth's raise ($3.5 mil)


am I missing something? going off that - the Panthers should have about $11 million free to spend....

I was thinking the same thing Alex. Either something doesn't add up, or a ton of bonuses get paid this year. I have no idea.

you guys are right, my math is all wrong...going back in..there is more money here...

I wish I lived in Canada.

AWWW MAN WE SUCK AGAIN!!!!

And it should be said that the Panthers will sell tickets when the Penguins, Rangers, Canadians, Flames, Capitals, Red Wings and probably the Islanders come to town.

Not to see our guys but to see Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Gomez, Ovechkin, Bouwmeester (yeah, you say that you are going to "boo" him, but deep down we all wish that we could have left this hockey team with him), Jokinen, Tavares, Franzen, Osgood, and Zetterburg (just to name a few).

Sexton is an idiot and the next thing we know, Booth will be demanding a trade (and he will get it too).

It's cool, thanks for checking.

I also agree with Dvorak and Booth, and Clemmensen was good, along with Reinprecht. I don't think most of us have problems with the move Sexton did make, including a 3rd rounder for Jay, but instead have problems with the moves he didn't make. Retaining Skrastins was important in my mind, as is retaining Peltonen. The Cats STARTED their third line most games; that should tell you something.

Not going for more scoring is the biggest concern. There were rumors of a Tanguay deal. Did you ever hear anything valid from that George, or was that simply a rumor?

My fear is that DeBoer will get frustrated with the lack of support and stability from above and want out. He's the only hope in this franchise right now, in my mind.

This is the 1st time in a long time that I am truly pessomistic about the up coming season....

BTW, George, how is Allen these days? Will he truly be 100% in the fall??

Ravi, where did you hear/see about the Wilson signing??

It's on the official site, Cory.

Knowing what we all know, if you were a very talented free agent.......WOULD YOU COME TO THE PANTHERS??????

Hate to say I told you so, but I posted about this weeks ago. I noted that Bouwmeester was likely gone and that the Panthers had only 3 returning defensemen signed and they needed to bring in a high quality guy or two. So what they now have is Ballard, who is fine (though on an elite team he might be a 2nd pair guy), McCabe, who is a very good vet, but who has limitations defensively, and then Allen, who was never considered mobile and is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him essentially an entire season. After that you have Koistinen, who couldn't crack Nashville's lineup, and then a gaggle of 3 rookies. Regardless of the talent potential of Ellerby, Garrison or Kulikov, they are still rookies.

The cap number right is actually about $49 million, because you have to calculate the cap of the previous buyout of Stumpel, and the buyout of McLean, and figure in the roughly $1.3 million that Ellerby and Garrison each get, which is probably in the ballpark of what Kulikov will get (so it doesn't matter which 2 of the 3 they carry). But that still leaves them an easy $5 million available so they can be comfortably $2 million under the cap in case they need that money later.

The sad truth is that Cohen doesn't want to spend it. He obviously doesn't want to inject anymore capital into the organization as he expects the new owners to do that when he cashes out.

I heard today about the LA Kings and their problems as a team trying to get people to go out there. Apparently they offered a ton of money to try and get Hossa, Drury, and a few other big names, but no one wanted to go out West unless they have a great chance of winning.

It is the same thing here. No one wants to come here anymore and the people who did want to stay, well... we scared them away. LA has had 40 crappy years. Are we in for that too?

If the people in charge of hockey operations of the Florida Panthers had real jobs, they would be fired. How badly can you do your job and still get a paycheck?????

I knew most top-end free agents would not sign here. The Panthers have to trade for scoring help. It's the only way they will get decent players here.

Leopold just signed. Thank goodness.

Yay! Finally someone has signed that is worthy of talk.

Glad to see Leopold has signed. It may be just my biased optimism but Sexton has got to be just playing it coy, right?

Cause I mean, he can't be THIS stupid after pulling off a couple good deals and then drafting very solidly.

Thank you George for not towing the company line. This season is probably the very last straw for most of the season ticket holders. A great first step would be to fire Yormark...it's no coincidence that the Panthers became a joke at the same time he was hired.

It's just so frustrating to watch player after player walk away. Whatever happened to the first 8 years? Seems like a lifetime ago...

Yormark. Remmeber 2 or 3 years ago when he was leading the cheerleading as we were heading to the playoffs. Clown. Sexton is a hired gun. Of course, he knows Coach Pete said we were "offensively challenged" last year. So they hire a 14 goal center. Please. Hossa to Chicago, Gaborik to the Rangers. Why did I renew when I can always buy tickets outside even if it is a rare sellout?

"Is this Carolina?"

LOL, dream on! Hmm, I see you "forgot" to mention where Carolina was in those ESPN rankings, eh? Ah well, that's OK...but FYI, sarcastic remarks, cheap shots & attempts at spin only highlight the jealousy of a successful organization - and don't do a darn thing to improve the Panthers. But it sure is easier!

Relax there Ron Francis...I'm the one covering NASCAR this weekend...

However you earned credit for acknowledging - obvious though it may be - that the Panthers "are not in the same ballpark" as Washington & Carolina. Baby steps...

Rumor is Vokoun might be going to Philly

Thanks, Carl Bernstein! But I can actually read. See the point is not all Carolina fans like NASCAR; that's called a "stereotype". Like when people say "no one in Florida understands or cares about hockey".

Maybe George should put his name in the hat for GM. I bet he will do a lot better than Sexton.

Just look at the past with Sexton he was let go in Ottawa before they became decent, then he was out of hockey until his buddy JM the GM realized that he couldn't coach and be GM at the same time (some will argue he couldn't do either alone as well)

There is a reason no one wanted this guy and then Cohen who thinks JM the GM is God hires him and has him control this organization.

By the way the latest rumor is that Cohen has found a new investor and is not selling so get ready for another decade of this joke.

ESPN ranking them above 20 other sports teams is amazing, but it is only because of the low price of tickets and the coach.

I said it 3 years ago and I will say it again as long as Cohen and Yormark are running this team we have no chance because they won't hire the right people only the has beens

Dude, I've been saying that since the day Dudley got fired in '04, and have been banned from websites when people ask me why I said it.

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