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43 posts from February 2011

February 28, 2011

Dale Tallon Tears Down Florida Panthers Roster, Looks forward with Draft Picks and Plenty of Cash

If the Panthers blueprint for the future includes tearing things down before they can be built back up, general manager Dale Tallon just drove a bulldozer loaded with nitroglycerin through his team’s roster.

The NHL's trade deadline passed Monday afternoon and the Panthers, as expected, made plenty of changes. After trading Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman in the days leading into Monday's trade deadline, Florida did more than just redecorate as the deadline approached.

Gone: Dennis Wideman, Radek Dvorak, Chris Higgins and Bryan Allen.

Still here: Tomas Vokoun, Stephen Weiss, Marty Reasoner and David Booth.

“We stuck to our plan. These were very hard decisions to make,'' Tallon said soon after the deadline ended, his Blackberry still ringing. “We kept our core together and kept our eye on the ball as far as the future is considered. We added picks, prospects and got younger. We really solidified our future.''

Florida’s moves gives Tallon a ton of money next year as the team has just $18 million in committed salaries. If the salary cap remains close to this year's ceiling of $58 million, that means Florida will have $40 million to remake things – if Tallon is allowed to spend close to the cap.

“We have lots of money to spend,'' Tallon said, eyes twinkling at the thought. “We have a lot freed up for next year. .-.-. We're going to be very aggressive on the free agent market. It's going to be hot-and-heavy come July.''

All told, the moves Florida started making on Thursday saved this year's bottom line close to $4 million in owed salaries. Nicklas Bergfors, who will likely be inserted into Florida's top lines, will make just $225,000 the rest of the season. Bergfors, as well as some of the other prospects picked up, will have a chance to make next year's roster.

Tallon said the Panthers direction is clear: Build through the draft, develop the organization's prospects and add free agents to compliment things.

Florida's moves started Thursday when Stillman went back to Carolina for a fifth round pick and Ryan Carter. On Saturday, Bryan McCabe went to the Rangers for a third round pick and Tim Kennedy.

On Monday, the Panthers and Thrashers kicked off deadline day with Florida getting the 23-year-old Bergfors (whose 29 points makes him Florida's fourth-leading scorer) and a veteran minor leaguer for Dvorak – the Panthers' all-time leader in games played for the franchise.

“When you see Stillman and McCabe go, you think to yourself 'I'm the next guy','' said Dvorak, drafted by the Panthers in 1995 and one of the few remaining members of the 1996 Eastern Conference champions still playing.

“It's something you have to live with and you move on. Atlanta is trying to make it to the playoffs. It's the business of hockey. Nothing you can do about it.''

The Panthers then made the second trade of the morning, sending Wideman – Florida's second leading scorer – to the Capitals for a third round pick and a big center prospect who is developing in the Single-A ECHL.

“I enjoyed everything here, was excited about moving forward but this is the nature of the business,'' Wideman said. “They are rebuilding here and Dale has a plan. They're going really young. That's the way it works.''

Florida then made a pure money move by sending Allen to the Hurricanes for winger Sergei Samsonov. Allen is signed through next season for $2.9 million; Samsonov makes comparable money, although his contract expires and he isn't expected to be invited back.

The fourth and final trade of the day surfaced after the deadline passed. Higgins, who has 11 goals but broke his thumb last week, was shipped to Vancouver for another third round pick and another prospect.

Florida now has 10 selections in next year's draft – including eight in the top 90. Florida did give up a fifth round pick in the Dvorak deal, but got more back as the day went on. Tallon says he's not through stockpiling draft picks.

“The future is most important for us. Draft picks, getting younger and better and moving forward, doing what we did in the past,'' said Tallon, who built the defending Cup champion Blackhawks.

The Panthers may be looking toward their future, but the present doesn't look too appealing. Before making roster moves Monday afternoon, the Panthers had five defensemen and holes on their forward lines.

Weiss, who could replace McCabe as the team's captain as early as this week, strongly denied Monday's early reports that he would only waive his no-movement clause to Toronto. Weiss has seen many a trade day go like Monday's and can only look on in envy to teams headed to the playoffs making moves to strengthen their current roster.

The Panthers, eight points out of a playoff spot coming into Monday, will almost certainly miss the postseason for what will be an NHL record-setting 10th straight season. Florida hasn't been to the playoffs since 2000 and haven't won a playoff series since Dvorak's group went to the Stanley Cup Finals 15 years ago.

“It's a tough day seeing friends move away, but they get to play on a playoff team and hopefully do well,'' Weiss said. “We haven't given up, but it's a long shot and they're making moves to better the future. It was expected. We put ourselves in this position. We're close but we're not that close.''
When, Where: 7 p.m.; RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Hurricanes lead 46-35-11
The game: The Panthers get to see some old friends as Bryan Allen and Cory Stillman – traded to Carolina in the past week – square off against their former teammates for the first time. The Panthers are recalling Keaton Ellerby to replace Allen on defense. Carolina, which holds the last playoff spot in the east, have won three of five against the Panthers this season.

OnFrozenFilm, TradeCentre Edition: Dale Tallon Talks Florida Panthers Moves

Bryan Allen Next to Leave

The Panthers made yet another move within the division on Monday, sending veteran defenseman Bryan Allen to the Hurricanes for winger Sergei Samsonov.

This is a pure salary dump.

Samsonov is a free agent next year and probably won't be back.

The Panthers now just have a handful of players signed next year, with forwards David Booth, Stephen Weiss, Rostislav Olesz and, yes, Steven Reinprecht making over $12 million of the $18 million the Panthers have on the books.

Right now, the Panthers are more than $40 million under next year's cap.

Too bad LeBron James is already locked in.

Bryan Allen apparently had to waive a no-trade to make this happen, so he obviously didn't mind getting out of here.

Will be nice to see Bryan and Cory Stillman tomorrow when the Hurricanes play host to the Rochester Panthers.

The Panthers have dumped over $2 million in salary today, bringing around $900,000 back. Since the payroll purge started Thursday with Stillman, the Panthers have shipped out around $4.5 million worth of money still owed players; they have brought back around $1.2.

Building toward the future? Sure.

Saving money in the immediate future? Absolutely.

OnFrozenFilm, TradeCentre Edition: Pete DeBoer Doesn't Seem Thrilled

OnFrozenFilm, TradeCentre Edition: Dennis Wideman Leaves for Washington

Going to have more on this later, but the Panthers have sent defenseman Dennis Wideman -- the key part of the Nathan Horton deal last June -- to the Capitals for a third-round pick and a 6-foot-5 center who has been buried in the ECHL the past few seasons.

Mike Santorelli warns not to judge how good Jake Hauswirth just because he's playing in a second-tier league.

"Hersey is absolutely loaded,'' Santorelli said. "He may just need a little more time to develop.''

Again, more on this later.

And now, Dennis Wideman:


OnFrozenFilm TradeCentre Edition: Radek Dvorak Leaves for Atlanta

Radek Dvorak Traded to Atlanta ... Florida Panthers Get Niclas Bergfors

Radek Dvorak is on his way to Fort Lauderdale International Airport to hop a flight and join his new teammates.

Dvorak, the Panthers' Jeff Conine, is now a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.

The first trade of Monday's trade deadline day was completed between the two sagging Southeast Division rivals. Atlanta, which is in a downward spiral, could still turn things around and make a push. Dvorak says he believes that is the case and seems excited to try and help things out in Blueland.

Although it's obvious he would rather just stay here.

Dvorak: "If we were two points back, we don't make any changes. Things didn't go our way every night. Eight points isn't the end of the world, but this is behind me.''

The Panthers get back 23-year-old winger Niclas Bergfors from the Thrashers, a winger who Rick Dudley has been trying to move most of the year. Bergfors came to the ATL in the big Ilya Kovalchuk deal last year.

The Thrashers also threw in 32-year-old winger Patrick Rissmiller. He'll likely remain in the AHL and report to help out Rochester's playoff push. 

Added Dvorak: With Stillman and McCabe traded, "you think 'I'm going to be next.' You just move on. Atlanta has a young team, pushing for a spot.''

February 27, 2011

Florida Panthers Lose to Streaking Devils 2-1 ... Bryan McCabe "wasn't wanted" ... New Captain After Trade Deadline? ... Hello Hugh Jessiman

Mccabejersey DEVILS 2, PANTHERS 1

With the Panthers trading veterans Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe in the past few days – with a good many more trades likely coming on Monday – coach Pete DeBoer was asked about his team's general mood.

“What would you guess,'' DeBoer asked sarcastically. “We're professional and battled through. But it's not easy days when you see guys walking out who you know can help you win games.''

The Panthers may have let the trade rumors affect their play in bad losses to the Islanders and Senators last week, but if some players were worried about Sunday being their last as a member of the Panthers, it didn't really show.

The Devils were just the better team on Sunday. The Devils, who have now won 17 of 21 games to get back in the postseason conversation after being left for dead just weeks ago, took a two-goal lead Sunday and held on for a 2-1 win over the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers, a team everyone around the league will be watching as the trade deadline approaches Monday at 3 p.m., have lost 14 of 19.

“We kept playing hard, just needed a break at the end,'' said Marty Reasoner, who scored Florida's lone goal late in the third period and could be headed to a contender on Monday. “They play really well when they have the lead. We had opportunities and just didn't cash in.''

Said Mike Weaver: “Everyone says it doesn't bother them, but it affects guys in different ways. But on the ice, you're not thinking about it, you're focused on the game itself.''

The Panthers had numerous chances against Martin Brodeur in the opening period but failed to connect. Darcy Hordichuk, a fourth line grinder, missed a shot in front of the net just moments before he couldn't put a loose puck into an empty net as Brodeur was splayed on the ice.

Brodeur didn't offer up many more such golden opportunities.

After a scoreless first, the Devils opened things up in the second, with David Clarkson and Brian Rolston scoring less than four minutes apart. Rolston's goal came with Weaver in the penalty box and was only the fourth power play goal the Panthers excellent penalty kill has surrendered since Feb. 1.

Florida cut into the lead when Reasoner one-timed a pass from Michal Repik – one of five American Hockey League players in the Panthers NHL lineup on Sunday – with 4:29 remaining. The Panthers then came fast and hard at Brodeur but couldn't put the equalizer through.

“We did a lot of good things considering,'' DeBoer said. “The guys emptied the tanks and gave us what they had. But it wasn't enough.''


McCabe spent the past two seasons as the Panthers captain and said Sunday morning that he wanted to stay with the Panthers “and be part of the process.''

McCabe said he waived his no-movement clause and accepted Saturday's trade to the Rangers after “it was made very clear over the past few days that I wasn't going to be part of their plan for next season.''

Assistant general manager Mike Santos said the Panthers had not spoken to McCabe regarding any specific role with the team.

“He asked us if we would resign him to a new contract,'' Santos said. “Both Dale Tallon and I both told him that we would look at that in the summer. We just weren't willing to sign him now.''

Said DeBoer: “He's a great pro, a great captain. I couldn't ask for a better guy in the room, as a young coach coming into the league, than him. He bought in from Day 1 and never wavered. He was the first to arrive, last to leave and played through pain.''

-- The Panthers played without a center on Sunday with Reasoner, Stephen Weiss and Bryan Allen serving as alternate captains. DeBoer said he would wait until Monday's deadline before deciding on who Florida's next captain may be.

“We'll see what happens [Monday] and see who is here and what we have,'' he said.

-- Hugh Jessiman made his NHL debut on Sunday, a long time coming for the former first round draft pick. Jessiman, 26, became the final first rounder from the Class of 2003 to play in the NHL. Jessiman, acquired from Chicago earlier this month as part of the Michael Frolik trade, said he's been waiting a long time for Sunday.

“It finally hit me. It was almost the perfect day and would have been had we won,'' he said. “It was just a great experience. It was pretty intense.''

-- Dmitry Kulikov was surprisingly back in the lineup Sunday. Out for the past two weeks with an ankle injury, Kulikov had been skating on his own for three days.

OnFrozenFilm: Hugh Jessiman Makes NHL Debut with Florida Panthers

February 26, 2011

Bryan McCabe to Rangers for a Third and a Kennedy

Panthers trade captain McCabe to Rangers

Sat, 26 Feb 2011 15:25 EST

The Panthers traded defenseman and captain Bryan McCabe to the Rangers Saturday afternoon for forward Tim Kennedy and a third round draft pick.

Actually, it should be said, "a third round draft pick and forward Tim Kennedy."

Considering Kennedy’'s situation, this trade breaks down as veteran defenseman for a draft pick. The Panthers now have 10 picks in their 2011 stash while the Rangers pick up an experienced blueliner.

Earlier Saturday, Rangers coach John Tortorella insisted the Rangers wouldn’'t make deals in a banzai attempt to win the Stanley Cup this year, a mark of the pre-lockout Rangers.

"We could’'ve made 10 trades by now, but everyone wants our kids," Tortorella said, according to the Rangers website.

"We don’'t want to be an organization that finishes seventh or eighth every year and gets our butts kicked in the playoffs."

McCabe began his career in the New York area as a second-round 1993 pick of the Islanders. The Panthers became his fifth team when he signed as a free agent before the 2008-09 season. He recently returned from a broken jaw suffered in January.

Kennedy’ spent the season exiled by money in the American Hockey League.

After the sixth round 2005 draft pick became a solid NHL role player in 2009-10 for Buffalo, picking up 10 goals and 16 assists in 78 games, the Sabres walked away from Kennedy’'s one-year, $1 million arbitration award.

He signed with the Rangers for $550,000.

The Rangers sent Kennedy down to Connecticut to begin the season. He cleared waivers then as teams were trying to get down to the 23-player roster limit out of training camp.

But with a cap hit to a claiming team only a little more than half his salary, New York didn’t think he would clear re-entry waivers. So, they've left him in Hartford throughout the season.

If the Panthers want to recall Kennedy, they’ would also have to get him through re-entry waivers.

February 25, 2011

Black Cloud Parts (for now) as Florida Panthers top Reeling Thrashers 2-1 in Shootout ... (OR) Steve Bernier: From Waivers to Winner


ATLANTA – The Panthers went into Friday's game a touch shorthanded what with Cory Stillman traded to Carolina on Thursday and second-leading scorer Dennis Wideman sitting things out.

Florida then lost Rostislav Olesz and Chris Higgins to injury in the first period, effectively leaving the Panthers with only three healthy forward lines.

Tomas Vokoun was doing just fine, however.

The Panthers goalie stopped 45 shots in 65 minutes of work during regulation and knocked back five of six faced in a shootout the Panthers thanks to Steve Bernier's goal on the final shot. Florida's hard-fought 2-1 victory snapped a two-game losing streak and just added to the woes of the struggling Thrashers.

Atlanta, which was entrenched in a playoff spot on Jan. 5, have gone a meager 3-11-5 since beating the Panthers 3-2 in Sunrise that night. The Thrashers got their first point in five games by going to overtime with the Panthers, but still lost ground in the playoff chase.

The Thrashers, however, aren't the Panthers concern. Florida was just happy to get a win and part the black clouds surrounding this team the past week. The Panthers are in the middle of a probable roster sell-off, something not helped by consecutive 5-1 losses to the lowly Islanders and Senators.

“This is the way we have to play,'' said Bryan McCabe, one of many Panthers who could leave by Monday's trade deadline. “We got blown out the past two games and didn't enjoy practice Thursday. We showed up and really battled with the guys out. The goaltending really helped, but we battled hard all night.''

Bernier was allowed to celebrate Friday's win as a hero. Bernier, who has only five goals and 14 points, was placed on waivers on Thursday.

So Bernier cleared at noon on Friday, then scored the game-winning goal in the shootout at 10:20 p.m.

“There are things you control and things you don't,'' Bernier said. “When you get a chance to help the team on the ice, you want to do it. I'm glad to have that opportunity. This may give me confidence in my game. Emotionally, there's been a lot of them. But you have to live with them. It's part of the job.''

The Panthers were forced to play down two forwards when Olesz apparently suffered a serious knee injury just over two minutes into the game. Bernier and Mike Santorelli helped their fallen teammate into the locker room only to see Higgins go down with a hand injury later in the period.

In between the injuries, however, former Atlanta center Marty Reasoner gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.

Vokoun, also the subject of trade talks, was strong. The lone goal he gave up – to Blake Wheeler – is one he would like back. Wheeler, who was 4-0 against Florida this season as a member of the Bruins, hit Vokoun with the puck on a breakaway, the puck softly finding its way past the goalie and through.

In the shootout, Florida got a goal from Santorelli but nothing else until Bernier won it in the sixth round. The Panthers went 2-2-0 on this roadtrip, with both wins coming in a shootout.

“It was a nice win,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “The guys really responded after we had a heart-to-heart after the Ottawa game.''


DeBoer and assistant general manager Mike Santos both said not to read too much into defenseman Dennis Wideman sitting out Friday's game. The Panthers had an extra defenseman after Friday's trade with Nashville and DeBoer said Wideman was dealing with an injury although he wouldn't be specific. “I don't want to get into it,'' DeBoer said.

Wideman has been logging big minutes of late and is Florida's second leading scorer. He's also minus-26. That number ranks Wideman third from last in the entire league, 843 out of 845 players.

Wideman, acquired from Boston in the Nathan Horton deal last summer, could return next season as he is signed through the 2011-12 season – but his name has been one of many mentioned to be garnering interest from other teams as the Panthers go into Monday's trade deadline looking to deal.

-- Santos said defenseman Keaton Ellerby was sent down to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., because he hasn't played well lately and needs.

Said DeBoer: “He’s a young player right now. It’s critical he gets the right messages and gets brought along at the right pace. When he takes a step back he needs to regroup and come back again. This is a guy that has been handled the right way. His upside is huge. He’s taken huge strides this year.''

DeBoer hinted that Ellerby could return soon, although Santos would like him to stay in Rochester for the time being. If Florida were to deal some defensemen in the coming days, Ellerby may have to be recalled.

-- DeBoer said he was hopeful that injured defenseman Dmitry Kulikov's injured ankle was healing up enough that he would be able to play next week. Forward Jack Skille, who hurt his ankle on Wednesday, could be out a considerable amount of time. His return is not known. Skille will be checked out by doctors in Florida this weekend.

Scott Clemmensen's New Mask

Scott Clemmensen traded in his old road helmet (the one that had a bunch of Puma logos on it) for this one. Made it's debut Wednesday against the Senators.

Here you go:

Clem1 Clem2 Clem3 Clem4 Clem5

The Panthers Are On TV? More Viewers Tune into Informercial than Local Hockey Team

Info2 The Florida Panthers television broadcasts sometime sound like an infomercial what with all the drop ins for upcoming concerts, ticket discounts and the like.

Turns out, some real infomercials on local television channels in South Florida actually draw more viewers than the Panthers games on Fox Sports.

We knew the ratings were bad for the Panthers -- about 3,000 households tune in on average.

But Barry Jackson's column in today's Miami Herald is shocking in how bad the ratings are.

Says Barry:

Info3 At the opposite extreme are the Panthers, who are drawing a slightly smaller average local rating than last weekend’s infomercial hawking an ice-crushing blender.

Apparently, more viewers prefer to watch ice being crushed than the Panthers being crushed on ice.

Ouch. Low blow there Mr. Jackson.

But wait, THERE'S MORE!

To give you some perspective on how few people watch the Panthers, consider this: Their .19 local rating was the worst in the NHL among the 22 teams studied by Sports Business Daily (numbers for Carolina, Nashville and Canadian teams were not available).

That’s lower than the rating for a kid’s show named Doodlebops at 7 a.m. Sunday on WFOR-4, lower than an AbCoaster exercise equipment infomercial on WFOR last Sunday, and lower than the Ninja Professional Blender, Chopper and Ice Crusher infomercial on WPLG-10.

So far this season, 82,191 homes have tuned in to Heat games on Sun Sports, on average, compared with 3,000 for Panthers games on FSNF. Pittsburgh averages the most per-game cable households in the NHL (105,000 per telecast).

Part of the problem may be that almost 30 percent of homes in Dade and Broward don't have cable. And all of the Panthers games are on cable.

That doesn't seem to be hurting the Miami Heat or Marlins, however, as FSN and Sun broadcast them as well and their numbers are just fine.

Heat (An aside: The Panthers may be helping the Heat numbers as Miami's basketball games broadcast by Sun Sports are advertised on the video billboards that front the Sawgrass Expressway and 136th Ave. Yes, before just about every game, the sight of LeBron, Dwyane and Bosh can be seen larger-than-life on the giant video screens out front of the Panthers arena.)

According to Sports Business Daily, the Panthers have lost 27 percent of their viewership this year. That means they went from about 4,000 households to 3,000.
Here are the five lowest watched NHL teams (Carolina not included in this report, although you have to think they have more than the 14K watching the Lightning on SunSports.)

Info4 For some odd reason, the Miami Heat is drawing record numbers these days.

Tampa Bay: 14K
Columbus: 10K
Phoenix: 9K
Atlanta: 6K
Florida: 3K

February 24, 2011

Talking Trade: Panthers send Stillman to Carolina ... Pete DeBoer's Bag Skate Practice ... Panthers in ATL

Cheerwine ATLANTA – The Panthers began what could be a full-scale sell off Thursday evening as alternate captain Cory Stillman was sent to Carolina for a fifth round pick and a fourth-line center.

Stillman, in the final season of a three-year deal he signed with Florida on July 1, 2008, is headed back to comfortable environs. Stillman won his second Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and is still a popular player in Carolina.

For the Panthers, things are anything but warm and cozy. The Panthers have eight pending unrestricted free agents – including the newly acquired Ryan Carter – and general manager Dale Tallon isn't done dealing yet. The trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m.

Stillman was expected to leave for Carolina directly from Atlanta on Thursday night and join the Hurricanes for their morning skate on Friday. The Hurricanes, who sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, play host to the Penguins.

“We're looking at all angles, all aspects in trying to get better for the future,'' Tallon said. “Cory is great guy, gave his heart and soul to this team. Now he's going to a place where he won a Cup. I wish him all the best going forward.''

The Panthers didn't seem to get much in return for Stillman. The fifth round draft pick gives Florida nine selections in the June entry draft – a number that is expected to grow before the trade deadline. In Carter, the Panthers get a big center (6-foot-2) who doesn't really contribute much offensively. In 32 games with Carolina this season, Carter has no goals and just three assists.

“You take what you can get,'' Tallon said. “That was the best offer for [Stillman] we've had so far. All picks are valuable. The best possible deal, that's what we went with.''

Tallon also placed the disappointing Steve Bernier on waivers Thursday. Bernier, who had a career-low 22 points with Vancouver last year, has just 14 points in 48 games. Bernier is expected to clear waivers and play for Florida on Friday.

“We have got to do something to get him going,'' Tallon said. “Disappointing? Yeah. It's all about performance for me and he's not performing.''

Tallon also called up three players – defenseman Joe Callahan and forwards Bill Thomas and Michal Repik – from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

Carter has been sidelined by a back injury and won't play right away. Winger Jack Skille, acquired earlier this month for Michael Frolik, suffered what appears to be an ankle injury on Wednesday. He was fitted for a walking cast and watched practiced Thursday on crutches.


One would think the way the Panthers have been playing with the puck the past two games that coach Pete DeBoer would have given one to each player to care for in order to become more comfortable with it. Instead, the closest thing to a puck at the Panthers practice Thursday afternoon at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place was a two-day old doughnut left in one of the dressing rooms.

DeBoer had 15 skaters and two goalies skate back and forth, in circles and back and forth again during the 45-minute session before the Panthers chartered to Atlanta.

“I don’t think anyone’s happy nor should they be,” said DeBoer, referring both to the skate and the recent play of the team. The Panthers lost 5-1 to both the Islanders and Senators in successive games. “I don’t expect anyone is happy, and we delivered that message today in practice.”

Had the Panthers managed two wins over the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference, they would have gotten themselves right back into the playoff picture. As it stands now, the four lost points leaves them in 12th place and seven points out of eighth instead of three points back.

“We’ve got to focus on Friday and Atlanta,” said David Booth, who is tied with Mike Santorelli for the team lead in goals with 17. “We know we could have had four points the last two games, but we didn’t play well enough. It’s unacceptable but we can’t think about that now. We have to think about getting two points Friday.”

Panthers captain Brian McCabe has been through these situations in the past and has seen how fine the line is between success and failure.

“We laid a couple of eggs the last two [games] and it’s unacceptable the way we played. For sixty-something games we’ve played pretty hard, we’ve battled and had a lot of one-goal games, but the last two games were disappointing and we really need to play a lot better than that,” McCabe said.

“We’re chasing everyone pretty much, so we need all the points we can get. We need to turn this thing around and play better, and I expect a better effort from everybody.”

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Thrashers lead 36-25-5
The game: The Thrashers have won three of four against the Panthers this season – all by a single goal. Nine of the past 11 games between the two teams have been decided by one goal. .-.-. Both teams are really struggling. Atlanta has lost four straight and eight of nine this month. The Panthers have been outscored 10-2 in successive losses to two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference (Islanders, Senators) as Ottawa snapped a 10-game home losing streak by beating the Cats 5-1 on Wednesday. Florida has lost 13 of 17 games.

Cory Stillman Traded to Carolina ... Dale Tallon Speaks

ATLANTA -- Dale Tallon traded Cory Stillman to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, getting a fifth round pick and pending UFA Ryan Carter (zero goals, three assists in 32 games with Canes) in the deal.

Here's what Dale had to say tonight:


We're looking at all angles, all aspects in trying to get better for the future. Cory is great guy, gave his heart and soul to this team. Now he's going to a place where he won a Cup. I wish him all the best going forward.


Our policy is to be totally honest when a team approaches us, to tell the player and they tell us they want to do. We'll honor any decision they make. Carolina was aggressive. Cory discussed with his family. He won the Cup there, is very popular there. He allowed us to trade him there.


You take what you can get. That's the best offer for him we've had so far. All picks are valuable. The best possible deal, that's what we went with.


We've been in every game, still have an outside chance of making the playoffs. But with 22 game remaining, we can't afford any more games like that. Any loss tough to come back from. You probably have to be 8-10 games over .500 based on past years. We have to get on our high horse to do that. I want to stay competitive, keep players to get on a roll. But we have to look long term.


He has a slight injury, upper body. We were familiar with that. We're going to call a couple of guys up from minors. We have key injuries to key players.


We have got to do something to get him going. Disappointing? Yeah. It's all about performance for me and he's not performing.


Not at this time, waiting for teams to call with the offers. No other player asked to move.

New Stars to Market?

Guaranteed ATLANTA -- Found it interesting whom the Florida Panthers chose to put on the front page of their webpage.

Jack Skille and Dmitry Kulikov, two players who almost assuredly will not be traded by Monday's deadline.

Good, safe selections I would say. Not only are they young players (Skille just got here) who would appear to not be going anywhere.

Both being hurt helps.


Keith Ballard Trade All About 'Savings the Moneys' and the Draft Pick ... Panthers Waive Steve Bernier ... Pete DeBoer Runs Bag Skate After Horrible Losses

Directv ATLANTA -- The Florida Panthers placed Steve Bernier on waivers on Thursday. Bernier will likely clear on Friday and right now, it's unclear what the Panthers have planned for him.

He did not practice Thursday in Ottawa – more on that later.

How, exactly, is the Keith Ballard trade to be judged?

So far, the Panthers got exactly what they wanted out of it.

I got called on the carpet by some Panthers front office people for calling that trade a salary dump.

Bernier That's what it was then, that's what it is now.

The Panthers shed themselves of a bad contract signed by the previous regime.

Ballard is a good player and a great guy. I didn't want the Panthers to trade him solely out of selfish reasons.

But by trading him to the Canucks, the Panthers unloaded five years and $21 million. Ballard's defense has not been missed as the Panthers are very deep in that position (although word is the Rangers and Panthers are close to finalizing a deal for Bryan McCabe.)

The Canucks got Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. Florida got Bernier, Michael Grabner and the 25th overall pick.

Ballard3 It's obvious now all the Panthers wanted was Ballard's contract to be gone and that 25th pick. Bernier came in the deal to offset the money; Grabner was a throw-in to sweeten the pot as word is the Blues were anxious to pick Ballard up as well.

Bernier, a restricted free agent, may not have played his last game with the Panthers but he won't be back next year. Grabner struggled through training camp and was waived, promptly picked up by the Islanders.

The Panthers say Mike Santorelli beat Grabner out for a roster spot, but that's not all together true.

Had the Panthers not given Steven Reinprecht such a large deal (two years left at $2.175 million per at start of the season), Grabner could have stuck around. The Panthers didn't want to waive Reinprecht (who would have cleared) and then have to pay him NHL money to play in Rochester.

Grabner makes just $765,000 in the NHL; had he cleared waivers like Florida hoped and made it to Rochester, his AHL salary is a paltry $62,500.

Regardless, the Panthers lost Grabner and ended up paying Reinprecht's salary anyway. Reinprecht is making NHL money playing in Germany and will likely be bought out of his final contract year over the summer.

-- Panthers coach Pete DeBoer has obviously had enough.

After being beaten 5-1 in successive games to Islanders and Senators (not exactly the Flyers and Red Wings), DeBoer put the Panthers through their paces on Thursday in Ottawa.

“There wasn't a puck to be seen,'' said Darren DeSaulniers, my eyes and ears in Ottawa this week.

Pete has been reluctant to put his team through a bag skate, and honestly, I think Thursday's skate-only session may have been his first in three years here. The last bag skate I can remember was put on by Jacques Martin. He did a few of them, one memorable puke-fest coming in Raleigh.

-- Will have more from Darren – hopefully a Jack Skille update – later this afternoon.

Also scheduled to speak with Tallon sometime today and will have a post on that as well.

-- FYI: McCabe did practice with the Panthers today and is scheduled to fly with the team to Atlanta. Will let you know if he makes it here.

February 22, 2011

Facing the Media Frenzy: Florida Panthers Chum in Trade-Crazed Canadian Waters ... Stephen Weiss: Mr. Aggressive


UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The last time the Panthers visited Canada was at the beginning of the month, the unofficial start of the NHL trade deadline countdown.

The Panthers are back in Canada once again, and with the deadline looming, the team is in the center of all trade conversations.

While that is great for those in the media business – and anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account – it's not a great position for the Panthers themselves. Although Florida's players have already been inundated with questions about their futures, things always heat up when the Canadian media is involved.

If the Panthers wanted to shy away from trade talk, they went to the wrong place. The Panthers practiced in Kanata, Ont., on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday's game against the host Ottawa Senators. The trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m.

“I thought we had a real good practice,'' coach Pete DeBoer said by telephone Tuesday afternoon. “I  wanted to keep the focus on the on ice, but that's not easy with the trade talk swirling around. I thought our guys were real good, real professional.

“There is more exposure up here, but it's North American wide now. With satellite television, [Canadian all-sports station TSN] is in every dressing room. We all watch it and hear it anyway. There's just no good place to be this week.''

The Panthers, as well as the last-place Senators, are now one of the most talked about teams in hockey. And that's only because it's pretty well known that general manager Dale Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos are working the phones trying to swing some deals.

Florida has a bevy of pending free agents that they would like to get some return for. The Panthers are a long shot to sneak into the playoffs, and even if they were closer, the Panthers management team has said they are looking years into the future when it comes to the development of the franchise and not up until the playoffs start in the second week of April.

“There are no secrets,'' DeBoer said of his team's mindset. “Every trade deadline is the same. In the position we are in, and what management has said, has heightened things. More guys are on notice that they might not be here at the end of the weekend.''

Radek Dvorak, one of Florida's eight pending unrestricted free agents, says players have to ignore all the talk – although that's easier said than done. Florida also has six restricted free agents on the roster.

“You can read the rumors, listen to the talks. They go right by me,'' Dvorak said. “Obviously, it's not a comfortable time but it's part of the business. You have this every year. We have to play this. We have a great bunch of guys and we've played hard just about every night. [Monday] we didn't do our job.''

Weisszetter MR. AGGRESSIVE

DeBoer doesn't think center Stephen Weiss will be punished by the league any further after being ejected from Monday's game against the Islanders after aggressively going after New York's Radek Martinek.

Weiss received a five minute penalty for elbowing Martinek in the head along with the game misconduct. Weiss isn't known for being a physical presence, but the Martinek incident was Weiss' second big hit in three games. Weiss tussled with Henrik Zetterberg on Friday, knocking off the Detroit center's helmet with a hard forearm as both collided by the boards.

DeBoer likes seeing that side of Weiss, although he didn't like the way Weiss went about Monday's hit.

“He didn't express why he did it, but it's a frustrating time of year,'' DeBoer said. “You pour your hearts into making playoffs and now we're going into deadline and it looks like were going to be trading players. I like the aggressiveness as long as it's not out of frustration with how things are going on the ice. That's the difference.''

Weiss is one of those players whose name has been brought about in trade talks. Weiss is signed through the next two seasons at a cap hit of $3.1 million per – although Weiss will be paid $4 million in each of the next two seasons. 

-- Dvorak and Dennis Wideman missed Tuesday's practice with injuries. DeBoer didn't know what their status would be for Wednesday.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; Scotiabank Place, Ottawa
TV/Radio: FSN/WQAM 560
The series: Senators lead 36-26-3
The game: Both teams are struggling and should have new-look rosters within a week. The Senators got a brief pick-me-up Saturday as newcomer Craig Anderson (the former Panthers backup traded to Ottawa last week) shutout Toronto in his Sens debut. Since Jan. 1, the Sens have stumbled to a 3-13-4 record. Anderson is expected to start Wednesday, facing Scott Clemmensen – the goalie Florida signed to replace Anderson as Tomas Vokoun's backup in 2009. Clemmensen and Anderson met up last year in Sunrise with Florida winning 6-5 in a shootout. Anderson didn't finish the game, forced to leave after being run over by Florida defenseman Keith Ballard.

February 21, 2011

Lost on Long Island: Florida Panthers Drilled 5-1 by Islanders


After beating Tampa Bay in a shootout on Saturday, Panthers coach Pete DeBoer was asked what it was like coaching in so many one-goal games.

“That's why I'm bald,'' DeBoer said with a laugh.

A loss like Monday's didn't do his hairline any favors -- and sure didn't leave him in a joking mood.

DeBoer watched most of Monday's uninspired 5-1 loss to the Islanders with a look of disgust on his face, his team's putrid showing in a Long Island afternoon special not Lost indicative of a team desperate to get back into the hunt for a playoff spot.

If anything, the Islanders looked like a team fighting for the postseason instead of the Panthers.

“No excuses. If we had them, no one would want to hear them anyway,'' DeBoer said. “Credit to [the Islanders]. They played hard and were the more desperate team. I don't know why that was. We have to figure that out as a group. I'm not going to let our guys off the hook .-.-. This time of year you don't use excuses, you find ways to win games. That's the bottom line.''

Florida, which has now lost 12 of its past 16, could have pulled to within five points of a playoff spot with a win Monday. The Islanders, who have suddenly won six of Piano seven, trail Carolina by 11 points.

“It's frustrating, no doubt. You grind for four or five months to get to this point where we have a opportunity to make some noise and don't do it,'' DeBoer said.

Instead, the Panthers will likely now go ahead with their fire sale. Any arguments to keep this team together may have been lost after Monday's miserable performance.

“You definitely want a better effort than that. They were the better team by far and they won, deservedly so,'' said goalie Tomas Vokoun, one of the Panthers who could be moved by the Feb. 28 trade deadline. “At the end, we make the [trade] decisions by our play. We probably didn't help ourselves. That's the business and whatever comes of it, you have to deal with it.''

How bad was Monday's game?

Gilligan (*) The Panthers trailed 4-0 with less than seven minutes gone in the second period.

(*) Florida was being outshot 22-3 at one point and went almost an entire period without getting off a single shot. The Panthers' final shot on goal of the first period came from Steve Bernier at 5:57; the next came from Bryan McCabe at 5:05 of the second period.

(*) Center Stephen Weiss aggressively rolled out of the Florida zone to ram Radek Martinek up against the boards. Weiss was given five minutes for elbowing and kicked out of the game.

(*) Florida's run of 32 consecutive penalty kills came to a close as Martinek – who else? -- scored New York's third goal with just three seconds left in Weiss' long penalty.

“This hurts. This was a big game for us to get back into it,'' said captain Bryan McCabe, yet another pending free agent the Panthers will likely look to move in the coming days. “We didn't show up, had another slow start. Them scoring at the end of that kill was a back-breaker. We just have to regroup.''

Fantasyisland Florida may not have escaped injury in this insulting game, either. Radek Dvorak took a hard shot off his skate during the second period and was in obvious pain. Dvorak gamely came back to play but was limping around the locker room afterward. The results of X-rays taken were not known.

“We're pushing for a playoff spot and these are the games you have to win,'' Dvorak said afterward. “We had to step up and did not. We know what we're playing for. We have big games coming up and we have to win them.''

Weiss' penalty put the Panthers in a tough spot. The Panthers were already down 2-0 when the Islanders were working the puck in the Florida zone, Weiss running down a backtracking Martinek before hitting him way past the blue line.

Not only did the Panthers have to kill off a five-minute penalty, but they also had to play the remainder of the game without their top center.

“It's a penalty no doubt,'' DeBoer said. “It was undisciplined, came at the wrong time. But he's not alone. It wasn't one or two guys who were bad. It was 20.''

The Islanders opened the scoring 7:40 into the game when Matt Moulson scored the first of his three goals. Moulson's shot from up close squirted between Vokoun's skate and in. Moulson's second goal, which came about seven minutes later, was ripped from the right circle and over Vokoun's glove.

Florida didn't score until Mike Santorelli made it 4-1 with 9:26 left in the game, knocking a loose puck past Al Montoya. The Islanders outshot the Panthers 37-21.

“We just have to keep with it here, finish this road trip right,'' Santorelli said. “We don't want to give up. We're going to keep pushing until the buzzer.''

February 19, 2011

Mike Santorelli the Hero: Florida Panthers Beat Lightning 3-2 in Shootout ... Panthers Penalty Kill, Power Play Lead the Way


TAMPA – Based on statistics, the Florida Panthers have one of the league's worst power plays. Florida has also traditionally been pretty lousy in shootouts.

Yet when the Panthers play the rival Lightning, just about all logic gets thrown out. The Panthers have owned Tampa Bay over the years and that is really all that matters.

Florida continued its trend of playing close games but this time came out on top thanks to two power play goals and Mike Santorelli's goal in the shootout that led to a 3-2 win at St. Pete Times Forum.

Santorelli's power play goal with three minutes left tied the game and helped force overtime.

“That's probably not the way we guessed the game would have gone,'' coach Pete DeBoer said smiling. “For us to end the week 2-2 with the four teams we had on the docket, that's a pretty good week for us. We had an opportunity to hopefully make up some ground.''

The two teams went into the second period tied at 1, although the Lightning broke that up just 14 seconds into the third when Sean Bergenheim knocked a rebound past Scott Clemmensen.

The Panthers kept coming at Dan Ellis and tied things up again after Santorelli jabbed at a loose puck in front of Ellis after the Tampa Bay netminder blocked a long shot from Bryan McCabe.

With David Booth knocking in a shot from Dennis Wideman early in the second period, the Panthers went 2-for-3 on the power play.

“I just went to the net, stood there and the puck popped out,'' Santorelli said. “I think we've been playing real well lately. It was nice to get the two points out of here. It was huge. We just need to keep it going the rest of the road trip.''

Clemmensen was terrific, stopping 34 shots in 65 minutes worth of work. Clemmensen, who likely earned himself a start Monday on Long Island, was put to the test in overtime after Radek Dvorak was called for tripping. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos looked to break the deadlock, although his shot found the post and caromed out. Stamkos would later grill Clemmensen again, with the Florida goalie making two saves on the Lightning's boy wonder.

In the shootout, Clemmensen – who came into the game with the league's lowest save percentage in these contests this season – stopped all three shots he faced. Santorelli opened with a goal and that stood up as the winner as David Booth and Cory Stillman were stopped.

“I haven't been very good in the shootout this year. I gave up one last year and have already given up seven,'' Clemmensen said. “That's one area  I need to be better. Those are big wins, big points for us. We got one tonight. I'm not a big fan of it, I think it's gimmicky. But it's a win for us.''

The Panthers went after Tampa Bay's big-name forwards early. Stamkos, he of the 40 goals this season, was knocked into the boards courtesy of a Mike Weaver elbow. Vinny Lecavalier was flattened by Bryan Allen. Stillman drilled Martin St. Louis into the Florida bench.

None of those three scored on the Panthers Saturday, although goals from little knowns Marc-Andre Bergeron and Sean Bergenheim almost did Florida in.

As is usually the case, the Panthers and Lightning played a tight game. Florida has seen 19 of its past 22 games be decided by one goal.

“This team gives the fans their money's worth,'' DeBoer said. “It's not always pretty but the effort is there. They don't cheat you on the effort and what they leave on the ice. That means we're in the game almost every night. We just need to come out on top like this more often.''

The Panthers, called for three penalties in the opening period, got their big break on special teams late in the period when Tampa Bay's Dominic Moore and Mattias Ohlund were called for penalties just 31 seconds apart.

Florida didn't convert on its 5-on-3 chance right away, going into the locker room down 1-0. The Panthers did pounce early in the second, however, with Wideman breaking his stick on a shot from the point. Luckily for him, Booth was set up in front of the net and deflected the puck.

-- The Panthers penalty kill unit was busy Saturday as it stopped all six of Tampa Bay's power play chances. Florida's penalty kill, which came into the day ranked fourth in the league, has now stopped 30 straight chances. The Panthers have given up just one power play goal since Feb. 1.

-- As expected, winger Kenndal McArdle and defenseman Joe Callahan were returned to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday. McArdle came up and played in Friday's game; Callahan was expendable after Bryan McCabe returned to the lineup Friday after missing a month with a broken jaw.