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Panthers Try to Balance Present and Future as Trade Deadline Nears

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BY GEORGE RICHARDS


Coach Pete DeBoer says his team needs to go on a big run following the Olympic break if it hopes to get into the playoffs.

His players are echoing that sentiment as well, knowing Florida needs to catch fire right out of the gate.

Yet with the team going into Tuesday's game at Atlanta riding a six game losing streak with losses in seven of its past eight, general manager Randy Sexton needs to be a realist.

The reality is this: The Panthers are not good enough to make that run to the postseason. The future of the franchise needs to be put in front of the needs of the current team – one six points out of eighth place with 21 games remaining.

“It's difficult, but we have to keep the big picture in mind here,'' Sexton said. “We have to think of the long term, not the short term but balance them both.''

On Monday morning, Sexton continued to try and help the future of the Panthers, trading defenseman Jordan Leopold to Pittsburgh for a second round pick in the upcoming draft. It was a good move for Sexton in which he got a nice piece for a pending free agent. But it didn't help the current team as the Panthers lost one of their top defensemen.

Before the break, Florida sent Dominic Moore – one of its top centers – to Montreal for a second round pick in 2011.

“Leo is a terrific player and did a great job for us,'' said Sexton. “From our perspective, we're shifting things around here a little bit. A second round pick is a fair value and a good value. Pittsburgh's delighted to have him. This is just continuing the process we started a few weeks ago.''

If the Panthers want to make the playoffs, they are going to have to play better than they have over the following six weeks.

“We look at the schedule over the last six weeks and we have a lot of games, 11 at home starting with Philadelphia on Wednesday,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “We have to win some games, make sure we're still in the playoff hunt.''

The Panthers have a game Tuesday before the trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. On Wednesday so a number of players are wondering if they will be next to follow Moore and Leopold out of town for greener pastures.

Florida's players went into the Olympic break with plenty of uncertainty. The team's ownership sent out a letter saying major changes would be made in the coming months, and Sexton feverishly worked the phones trying to cut some deals before the roster freeze that precluded the Olympics.

No player – save for younger players such as Dmitry Kulikov, Michael Frolik and David Booth – appear to be immune from trade talks.

“They haven't let that creep into our preparation,'' said DeBoer. “They have been good about it. A lot of them have been through this before; some of the young guys are just oblivious to it. It hasn't been an issue.''

Stephen Weiss has been with the Panthers since 2002 and, with the team not making the postseason since 2000, has seen these days plenty of times before. The Panthers have made minor moves around deadline day in the past few seasons, usually saving their blockbuster deals for the summer when teams are more willing to give up good pieces because they are not currently in a playoff push.

“Its tight going into the deadline, especially being in the spot we have been in over the past few years,'' Weiss said. “Once the games start and you are on the ice, you are playing with the players out there. It's not an easy time, though. It's stressful for the guys in here.''

Before being traded, Leopold talked about the pressure of possibly being traded – something he has been through before. Leopold started last season with Colorado before being sent to Calgary. A free agent, his negotiating rights were sent to Florida over the summer in exchange for Jay Bouwmeester. Leopold eventually signed a free agent contract with the Panthers – and will be a free agent come July 1 if he doesn't sign an extension with the defending Stanley Cup champs.

In 61 games for Florida this season, Leopold had seven goals and 11 assists.

“Jordan was great to work with and I thanked him for his service here,'' said DeBoer. “He came as advertised: A puck moving defenseman who was a professional across the board. I think he really helped our younger players. I'm sad to see him go.''

-- Injured winger Nathan Horton (leg) skated on the ice before Florida's practice Monday morning with coach Mike Kitchen. He will not play until next week at the earliest.

-- Weiss said the nagging injuries that have been bothering him for the better parts of two months are behind him. “I'm 100 percent,'' he said.

TUESDAY: PANTHERS AT THRASHERS

When: 7 p.m.; Philips Arena, Atlanta

TV/Radio: FSNF/WAXY-790

The series: Thrashers lead 32-24-5

The game: The Thrashers may have handed the Panthers their most humbling loss of the season on Feb. 6 when the team spent all day traveling to Atlanta from Washington because of a massive snowstorm yet dominated the Panthers in a 4-2 win. This is the final game of the six-game series between the two. Backup Scott Clemmensen will start in net for the Panthers with Tomas Vokoun expected to start Wednesday against the Flyers – if he isn't traded before then.

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Carter, Van Riemsdyk, Giroux & Coburn for Vokoun.

With Vokoun in net Flyers wouldn't need to score as much. Panthers could then look for UFA goaltender to sign in the summer and with Clemmensen in net for the rest of the year Panthers would get a great lottery pick. It is win-win for both teams.

End result:

Bouwmeester for 2nd round pick.

Woo Hoo, I love the Panthers!!!

Brian Burke again was the man who should have been hired instead of the two idiots in '04. He is willing to take on other teams' bloated contracts at present, if it also means getting better picks and prospects for a player. Yeah, T.O. can afford those contracts, but if the Panthers are looking to fast track their rebuild, they might ice a somewhat entertaining team while restocking the farm and givin it time to develop.

As for that above trade, typical HFboards crap.

Bouwmeester for a 2nd and 3rd rounder, which we used to select Birkholtz last year. Yep, and we wonder why we've missed the playoffs since 2000.

I read an interview with Kings' GM Lombari who said you have to be bad at times to become good later on. He was talking about not needing to trade Frolov (an impending UFA) as opposed to years past where he had to trade his upcoming UFAs to build assets. When you see how many times the Kings drafted in the top 10 and what their picks have become, it's impressive. Not too many misses in that bunch.

Panthers need to get three additional draft picks for 2010 and dump underachievers with hefty contracts that should be the overall goal. If the Panthers can make a trade with the Blackhawks or Kings that would be the best case scenario. Both teams are loaded with offensive talent.

The Bouwmeester deal is not Sexton's fault, JM and Cohen are to blame for that debacle. We await filling in the blank for what Sexton's blunder will be....

By the way JayBo has done nothing special in Calgary... He is a good, but not great... He was not even on the Olympic team... If he was as great as everyone here seems to put him to be he should be able to produce everywhere he goes, a la Scott Neidermayer, Chris Pronger, and slew full of other great D-mens. He wanted a change of scenery and he got it and now he is having minimal impact on his team, he might rebound, he might not. But in the end, we got the most bang for the buck for what we had to deal with. So cry somewhere else about JayBo. OVERRATED!

I think the Panthers should trade for Leo DiCaprio the star of Titanic. He should know alot about sinking ships.

Couldn't be happier jaybo gone if we got a u17 and 2peewees. He is nothing more than mediocre.

So now I understand even more why the Panthers wanted season seat owners to renew before the olympic break. The management is giving up on this team even having a chance to make the playoffs. I hope someone let DeBoer know.

Let's build for the future...AGAIN....

Actually, JayBo walked and we got absolutely nothing in return. We got negotiating rights for a couple of days but were unable to sign Leopold until after Leopold was already free to talk to other teams.

Sexton is to blame as well for the Jay Bo mess, he had the list of teams that Jay Bo was willing to be traded to in his desk, he thought Bo was bluffing and was wrong.

Just like he was wrong to draft and sign Alexandre Daige.

look at the players the panthers passed in the drafts and you realize why we are where we are

Sexton inherited the JayBo mess and when given the reigns, he acquired Leo and a 3rd rounder. Sexton's mission is to get better for next year via 1) before Mar 3; 2) at the NHL entry draft; 3) at the start of free agency; and 4) during training camp. The problem with all this is, we've done this 9 years in a row! My patience has worn out!

Sexton did what he could, what can you do when the GM runs off like that for nothing? Let's think about that one, Cohen could have asked for Montreal to give up a draft pick to talk to JM. What did Cohen do? Nothing. Dumped it on Sexton stating he was not sure he was the guy and interviewing other GM's... handcuffing him to make drastic trades due to a "possible change in who is in charge at the gm position", then Cohen decides that Sexton is in charge at the end of the offseason. Now, Sexton has the power to make those drastic trades. Lets see what he does. Let's also keep in mind that 2009 draft went very well for the Panthers with Kulikov and Dadonov. Sexton has managed to get 2 second round draft picks so far. That's pretty good. My feeling though is the magic number should be 3 draft picks for 2010.

If you look at what the biggest mistake of this franchise was, in actuality, it was giving up 2 first round draft picks two years in a row, and signing guys like Oslez to pretty high priced deals despite having been injured...That is why the Panthers did not make the playoffs last year and the year before...


why does this remind me of the statements of this organization right before and right after they give up Pavel Bure for nothing.

The organization stated: "don't look at what we are doing now, judge us after we pick up a couple of very good players either in a trade at the draft or in free agency.

Now we are hearing the same thing.

Sorry folks but I would not have high expectations for this organization to change as long as they continue to scout on the cheap and worry about marketing the arena over the product on the ice

Let us not forget that the Panthers are in the sports entertainment business. Entertainment generally equates to winning, which the Panthers done over the past decade, which in turn has driven revenue down due to declining ticket sales etc. This team will have no fans left, if it now goes into a full rebuilding cycle, which will take, at least, 3 years. My guess that the goal in Pantherland is not the Cup, but simply to make the play-offs next season. What we are really doing is tanking for this season, trading vets for prospects and draft picks etc.

Grab chicagos offer for voukon and sieds Versteegs a magician with the puck just stuck behind Kane and Hossa

If you're a season ticket holder from day one, you should that JM was the GM at the time of the JayBo fiasco. Sexton did what he could with what was left. Are you sure you're a season ticket holder from day one, or don't you pay attention.

Bo, I don't think the Flyers would shell out that much for Vokoun and the cap issues need to be considered, but if any team is going to overpay it might be them. Philly has blamed their playoff failures on their goalie every season since Hextall. Vokoun would pretty much remove that excuse.

I think this season is going to work out like last season. The Cats will get as close as possible to the postseason but won't qualify. They won't get a lottery pick.

JimH - Like you said, "if any team is going to overpay it might be them." They want results now. Vokoun is a world class goalie. With him on that team they can afford to trade a few goal scorers because they won't need as many goals to win with Vokoun as they do with the minor league tandem they have in net now. Flyers don't have any first round draft picks so they have to give good players back and they need to drop salary. It sounds like a lot but if they win the cup with Vokoun, no one will complain and they have a much better chance with Vokoun than with the slugs they have now.

If T-vo moves and goes to a team that can put some pucks in the net to pump up his 'W' column he will get the admiration from the league that he deserves...

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