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3 posts from August 2012

August 30, 2012

GETTING READY: #FlaPanthers Prepare for Uncertain 2012-13 Season

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

As is the case each August, hockey players are slowly making their way south.

With school back in session and the start of the NHL season hopefully not too far away, the ice sheet at the Panthers training facility in Coral Springs is littered with hockey players both young and old -- some members of the Florida Panthers and some not.

All are working their way into shape for the upcoming season as the Panthers plan to open training camp Sept. 23.

Of course, that may not be the case.

The league and its players are in the midst of yet another labor dispute with the collective bargaining agreement expiring on Sept. 15.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has said if a new deal isn't reached by that time, the league will lockout its players for the third time under his watch.

There is some optimism a deal will get done especially after the league's latest proposal. Yet expectations are games will be missed. So what exactly are these players doing working out in August?

"Getting ready for November,'' joked one former Panthers player who asked not to be identified. "I hope we play in October. But I also hope we play in November. We're still getting ready.''

Few forget what happened during the last NHL lockout, one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. Things were different then, however, as a league that was once in financial disarray reported a record $3 billion in revenue last year.

Both the players and owners feel a deal can be worked out this time around. But both sides, as of today, are still far apart.

The league's first proposal was to cut player revenue from the current 57 percent to around 43 percent. The NHL has moved from that number with its recent offer, one that would come closer to a 50 percent share between the owners and players.

The NHL's recent offer is for six years and it would see an initial drop in the salary cap with annual raises throughout the course of the CBA. The NHLPA could present its counter-offer to the league on Friday. Right now, the salary cap for the upcoming season is just over $70 million. Under the league's latest offer, it would drop to $58 million.

According to capgeek.com, 16 teams would be over the cap if it goes to $58 million. The Panthers have about $54 million committed to next season not including unsigned defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

The Florida Panthers are scheduled to open the 2012-13 season at home against Tampa Bay on Oct. 13.

"I'm optimistic we're going to get something done,'' Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "You see a business side in every sport. Everyone wants a fair deal. As players, we're more than willing to make things fair. But there are 700 people in our union and everything has to be agreed upon. I just hope we don't miss any hockey.''

The Panthers, noting the uncertainty surrounding the issue, has already cancelled their rookie tournament scheduled for Sept. 15. The Lightning, Bruins and Hurricanes planned to take part. Florida will not cancel any preseason games until Sept. 15 passes.

"The last time around, I was 27 so I dealt with it as 'oh, I have a lot more years left','' Panthers goalie Jose Theodore said. "We had a good thing going last year and we really want to get back at it. I'm preparing as if nothing is going to happen, but you have it in the back of your mind. You worry this thing might drag out.''

Jovanovski was joined at the Panthers center on Tuesday by teammates Theodore, Peter Mueller and Tomas Kopecky. The players are using the ice at their facility as well as the locker room and everything else the Panthers have to offer including staff support. But if Sept. 15 comes without a deal, the players will be on their own.

Former teammates Marco Sturm and Radek Dvorak were also on the ice as they get ready for a season of uncertainty for more reasons than one.

Sturm, who played for the Panthers last season, and Dvorak are both free agents. Neither is expected to sign with anyone until a new CBA is agreed upon.

For the most part, teams have shut down as they wait and see what happens next.

And players will be heading south with more frequency as the scheduled opening of training camp comes closer. NHL players around the league are working their bodies as if there will be a camp in September -- even if their head tells them otherwise.

"I talked to [player rep] Mike Weaver the other day and he told me we're working toward getting something done,'' Jovanovski said. "The frustrating part is having a date in mind, a date to gear up for as we try to build off what we did here last year. We don't want to miss any time and I hope we don't.''

GETTING READY: #FlaPanthers Prepare for Uncertain 2012-13 Season

August 28, 2012

JOSE SPEAKS: Jose Theodore Talks About Future with #FlaPanthers

Panthers goalie Jose Theodore was one of a handful of players at the Coral Springs Iceplex on Tuesday as they gear up for what they hope will be a quick start to the 2012-13 season.

Joining Theodore on the ice today: Ed Jovanovski and Tomas Kopecky as well as former Panthers Marco Sturm and Radek Dvorak. Craig Anderson skated early. Scott Clemmensen is in town, although word is his equipment is not. He should be on the ice pretty soon.

Anyway, a lot has been made this summer about the possibility about Roberto Luongo possibly rejoining the Panthers. There has been talk that Theodore -- who has a year left on his contract at $1.5 million -- won't waive his no-trade if Florida was to include him in a possible deal.

Theodore told me today that he has indeed heard all the rumors -- and he is quite used to such talk. No big deal. And while he wouldn't answer my question on whether he was asked by the Panthers to waive his NTC, he did say he hasn't spoken to anyone with the Panthers or the Canucks.

Theodore did say, as I have as well, that with the labor uncertainty neither the Panthers nor Canucks are in any hurry to do anything just yet. Not saying a deal will get done -- but I'm not saying it can't, either.

With it being likely that Luongo stays in South Florida during the lockout, once a CBA deal gets reached, something between Florida and Vancouver could get done rather quickly.

Here's what Theodore had to say today.

ON THE END OF THE SEASON: It's always tough to lose a playoff series. I don't care how good you think you played in the series, if you lose, it's never a good feeling. You are always sour when you lose in the playoffs. We did accomplish a lot of things as a team, things people didn't expect us to do. Now it's time to find what our potential is. We're going the right direction. You can't take one step forward and two back. Right now we're moving forward. Teams will be ready for us. But we want to take it to the next level.

HOW DID YOU FEEL YOU PLAYED LAST SEASON: I liked what we did as a team. We did things people didn't expect. I don't like to talk about my individual play. At the end of the day, it's what the team does. I played over 50 games and as a team, we proved a lot of people wrong.

SURPRISED TO HEAR TALK FLORIDA MIGHT WANT LUONGO? Not at all. But as of now it's just rumors. You are always going to hear talk of this or that, but it doesn't take away from the team and what we have. Nothing can take away from what we did as a team last year.

It doesn't bother me at all. It doesn't change how I wake up in the morning or sleep at night. It's not going to change how I prepare myself. It doesn't change anything.

RUN INTO LUONGO IN MONTREAL?: I didn't. I usually see him down here more than I do up there. We've played together in All-Star games, for Team Canada. We have a good relationship. He's a great guy and he wants to be somewhere where he's wanted.

JOSE SPEAKS: Jose Theodore Talks About Future with #FlaPanthers

JOSE SPEAKS: Jose Theodore Talks About Future with #FlaPanthers

August 20, 2012

LOCKOUT EN ROUTE? Florida Panthers KO Rookie Camp with Hurricanes, Bruins and Lightning ... Dmitry Kulikov Talks Cold

GuaranteeSpoke with Florida Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos briefly on Monday as he confirmed the team cancelled its rookie camp/tournament because of the potential/probable (oh it's coming) lockout on Sept. 15. 

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players expires on Sept. 15.

That day was the scheduled start of a rookie camp/tournament the Panthers planned to host at their facility in Coral Springs. 

It is no more.

Fall2010 560The Panthers were to entertain the Hurricanes, Lightning and Bruins from Sept. 15-19. 

No reason to fly all these players and coaches into South Florida on Sept. 14 only to send them back when the CBA expires on Sept. 15. 

And it will expire without a new deal.

MiamiarenafinalsYou can take that to the bank (by the way, the ATM machine at the Panthers facility in Coral Springs now sports the BB&T logo. The newest name of the Panthers arena -- BB&T Center -- will be announced sooner than later). 

-- Santos also said the Panthers haven't had much conversation with RFA Dmitry Kulikov lately.

He continues to say there is no worry that a deal will get done eventually.

And it will.

Kulikov remains the property of the Panthers after just completing his third NHL season. 

There is, after all, no hurry.

The NHL has basically shut down. 

-- Enjoy football season everyone!

Heatbanner-- And the start of the NBA/college basketball season as well.