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Talkin' Hockey on a Sunny Afternoon: Conversations with Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer ... Sexton New GM?

Clerkshockey Good afternoon Panther fans, hope it's not too hot out there for you.

Spoke to Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer today about this and that, and while I have no update on Alex Tanguay, I do have some other things to share.

If that's OK with everyone, that is.

As far as Tanguay goes, I still hear the Panthers are in the running, but Randy wouldn't comment on anything. At all. So we continue to wait.

-- As far as the GM search goes, I bet it stays with Randy. He says he has no real update, but he sounds like the guy:

"I'm pleased with what we have done,'' he said. ''For me, it's straight ahead, lots to do every day. I'm trying to make the team better, the organization better. The GM stuff will sort itself out.''

Randysexton -- Sexton says he is hard at work trying to get top pick Dmitry Kulikov signed before training camp. Like most young Russians, Kulikov has a contract with the KHL.

It does have a buyout trigger, one the player -- not the team -- has to pay out. I'm sure that will be included in the purchase price.

''I've been talking with his agent,'' Sexton said. ''We're not there yet, but it's going well.''

-- As far as the roster goes, if it's set, well, that's OK with Randy and Pete.

"We don't really need anymore changes. There's still a pool of guys out there if we see some weaknesses during camp we could get. We are looking around a little toughness. But we're still looking to improve. But I like our team. If we find the right deal and it helps our chemistry and depth, we'll do it. If not, we will wait. There could be additions. But again, I like this team. Pete likes this team. We're comfortable with it.''

Said Pete DeBoer:

''We took a step in the right direction last year and came close,'' DeBoer said of last year's finish, one in which the Panthers tied the Montreal Canadiens for the eighth and final playoff spot but missed out on a tiebreaker. The Canadiens beat Florida in three of four games played.

''We played good hockey for two-thirds of the season. We want to build on that. Our start is critical. I am very excited to get these guys back in camp and I sense some excitement. Guys want to get going.''

As for wheeling and dealing, Sexton said he stayed in constant contact with his second-year coach. DeBoer seems to like what the Panthers have and actually discouraged Sexton from messing with the team's dynamic too much.

''He's comfortable with this team,'' Sexton said. ''We talked about a few deals, and he encouraged me not to make them. He thinks there is more here, more upside.''

-- As far as guys stepping up:

''You can never predict injuries,'' Sexton said. "You have to accept we'll have a normal amount. We expect Nathan to bounce back, Weiss made good progress with an injured wrist. We expect more up front from Booth. Olesz missed a good chunk, Stillman never really recovered from his concussion. We added Reinprecht, a 45-50 point guy. I think we're going to be OK on offense. You always want more, but what does it cost to get more?''

Deboerjm Says DeBoer: ''There's definitely room for improvement,'' DeBoer said. ''We need Weiss, Frolik, Campbell and Booth to not just repeat what they did last year but add to it. I think they can. We're not going to have the luxury of scoring depth so no one can have off years. Those guys who performed have to repeat and some of the guys who had off years need to have big years. I think everyone is capable of improving and I see this team being better. I'm excited about it.''

-- How about Evgeni Dadonov? He'll be with the Florida organization next year, and he'll get a shot to make the team in training camp. Randy says his KHL contract ''has expired.''


''He will be with the organization,'' Sexton said. ''It may take him a little while to adjust to the North American pro game, but he has very good hockey sense. Elite hockey sense. He's not big, but crafty and clever. He has terrific potential. We all know there will be injuries. If he's playing well [in Rochester], he'll get up for some games.''

-- DeBo on what's up with the Panthers:

''Obviously I'm excited about our forward group. We addressed a need for a center with Reinprecht and resigning Dvorak was a big key in order to get some consistency back. We had guys do a good job. We're like a lot of teams this year; we're going to give young guys a chance to show what they can do. Hopefully we'll hit on another Frolik.

''I don't know if we are done or not, but we've filled some holes. You don't replace a Jay Bouwmeester, but with Ville [Koistinen] and Jordan Leopold, we have skating puck-movers. It just depends how the young guys develop.''

-- As far as the young guys go, DeBo thinks they are all on the right track. The young players are not getting a free pass.

"I last saw them at the development camp in Toronto,'' he said. ''We spent a week working out on and off the ice. I met with all the young players at that point and gave them a clear understanding of what our expectations are. They are pros now and have to show they did that work in camp.''

-- On coming back for a second season:

Deboer1 "My comfort level coming into camp is much different than a year ago,'' DeBoer said. "I have a good idea of the personnel we have. Guys who played major roles here, well, I know them. That should translate to a good start.

"Last year we took the approach that I was going to give everyone an audition in the first 10, 15 games. We struggled through that period, through that process. We don't have to go through that this year. I know 90 percent of our guys, I know what they are capable of.

''I will know much sooner whether they are toeing the line or not and we can make the appropriate changes.''

-- Here is what I see the current depth chart looking like. Obviously much can change. Yes, it's still real, real early...

The Florida Panthers -- As of July 28, 2009

Forwards

David Booth-Stephen Weiss-Nathan Horton

Cory Stillman-Steve Reinprecht-Michael Frolik

Rostislav Olesz-Gregory Campbell-Radek Dvorak

Nick Tarnasky-Kamil Kreps-Michal Repik

Defensemen

Keith Ballard-Bryan McCabe; Bryan Allen-Jordan Leopold; Ville Koistinen-Keaton Ellerby

Goaltenders

Tomas Vokoun; Scott Clemmensen

Spares: C Shawn Matthias, LW Kenndal McArdel; RW Evgeni Dadonov; D Dmitry Kulikov; D Jason Garrison

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