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VERSTEEG IS GONE: Panthers Move On Without Winger, Play Wild Friday Night

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MINNEAPOLIS -- Florida GM Dale Tallon spoke on a conference call Friday morning addressing the big deal he made with Chicago late Thursday night.

In case you all missed it: Florida sent Kris Versteeg back to Chicago for youngsters Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen.

Hayes will wear No. 12 and is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the Wild. Olsen will start with AHL San Antonio. Hayes, who arrived in Minneapolis before Friday's morning skate from Grand Rapids, Mich., was on a line with Shawn Matthias and Sean Bergenheim/Krys Barch.

"We know there are going to be moves as the team moves forward in getting better in a lot of areas,'' coach Peter Horachek said after the skate. "When the team isn't performing well, changes will be made. We needed a change. We're ready to move forward in what is best for our team.''

Versteeg, who had a limited no-trade in his contract, left Minneapolis early Friday morning and was on a third line in his return practice with the Blackhakws.

"I'm not happy with the situation our team is in as far as wins and losses,'' Tallon opened. "The effort has been better lately. We're going to continue to be aggressive and make changes that are important for our franchise moving forward keeping our focus on the future.

"We're excited about where we're headed, the foundation being built. We added two young pieces to an already deep foundation of players and prospects. This is a step in the right direction for the Florida Panthers.''

To make the deal, Florida will eat half of Versteeg's contract over the course of the next two-plus seasons. Versteeg's cap hit is $4.4 million and will be split by the two teams.

With so many teams close to the salary cap ceiling, the only way Florida could move Versteeg was to take on some of his money. The Panthers are no where near the cap ceiling.

"In this day and age it's tough - especially midway through or early in a season - to make moves,'' Tallon said. "You have to be aggressive, have to be creative. Now with the new CBA we can take money back. That will help future moves.''

The Panthers signed Versteeg to a four-year deal before the 2012 lockout. Versteeg was limited to 10 games last year because of two injuries -- most notably a major knee injury suffered against the Lightning.

Versteeg had two goals so far this season and was seeing his playing time diminish both under Kevin Dineen and Horachek.

"His play was inconsistent,'' Tallon said. "I think he was trying to do too much, trying to carry the burden of the big contract. He tried to do too much and wasn't consistent enough. This was based on performance only.''

Said Horachek: "It's more than just scoring goals. His play wasn't consistent. He wasn't at the top of his game and hadn't played well all year I don't think. We know what he's done in the past, he's been a good, talented player. The team has to make what it thinks are the best choices.''

Versteeg, meanwhile, is absolutely thrilled to be back in Chicago playing in a city and for a team he loved. Versteeg didn't want to leave the Blackhawks after they won the Stanley Cup in 2010 but was a salary cap victim.

Of course, with Florida picking up half of his salary for this and the following two seasons, he's a little more affordable.

Versteeg went on WGN radio in Chicago this morning and not only said he hoped former Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell would eventually follow him to the Second City, but that other teammates sounded a little jealous in their text messages to him.

Campbell said he never mentioned to Versteeg that he wanted to be in Chicago.

"I'm right where I want to be,'' Campbell said.

As far as waking up went, Versteeg thought the trade might have been a dream. He told reporters in Chicago that he was having dinner in Minneapolis and didn't answer his phone when Tallon initially called. He knew something was up when he checked the phone and saw Tallon called a few times -- and had left a couple of voice mails.

"I didn't really know what was going to happen,'' Versteeg said. "Florida, we were struggling a little bit and you heard that there might be something going on. But obviously when Dale called me last night and told me I was coming back here, obviously put a smile on my face. And I'm very excited about coming back here. .-.-.

"It's still a lot to process. I've had so much good times here and you almost put that all in the rear view mirror because you never thought you'd come back. Now I'm back here and it's now about getting back to playing hockey and trying to put my best foot forward every night to try to help the team in whatever way I can.''

Hayes, 23, has played in 43 career NHL games with Chicago, scoring six goals with seven assists. Olsen, 22 has played in 28 career games with Chicago. He has one assist.

"We added two big kids,'' Tallon said. "We want to big, we want to be strong. We want to be tougher. Those are the things we need to improve on. We added size and diversity to our lineup.''

PHOTO COURTESY OF KELSEY HINDS

 

Comments

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Versteeg reminded me of Hanley Rameriez. Tons of talent but only played hard when he felt it was worthy of his best effort. Steeg got exactly what he wanted and Panthers got more promises for the future.

Florida is going nowhere. Should have waited and tried to move Versteeg at the deadline. He couldn't get any worse, he could only get better. I have no problem with this trade in principal. I have a problem with Florida eating half of Versteegs salary. A deadline deal to a team who needed to add some offense may have allowed Florida to lose all of Versteegs salary. If they needed to keep some salary to stay above the cap floor, don't make this trade. Whatever the case, there was no urgency to get rid of Versteeg. And, while Hayes may stick with the Panthers in a 3rd or 4th line role, he isn't going to add anything that Versteeg wasn't. Versteeg has been a defensive liability but atleast he had the potential to get his game back and score. Then again, I warned that losing Weiss was bigger than most figured it would be. The line of Weiss, Versteeg and Fleishman would be putting up some points.

I have no problem with this trade. He wasn't scoring, defensive liability and last game against the Ducks, he fell too many times without being touched. We had to eat salary because so many teams are tight against the cap. If we had waited til the deadline, injuries could have happened and then no value. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. I think it was the ownership uncertainty that helped push Weiss out the door. Do we miss him, of course. I am a Weiss fan from before he was drafted. Its time that they have a true captain, maybe Mathias or Kopecky. They play all the time, and all crucial situations. Bring up Shore also.

Ok, fine...trade Versteeg and get rid of his salary because ownership wants to be cheap and he wasn't playing up to his fullest potential. But, eat half his salary? What was Tallon thinking? Like Grier mentioned above, there was no urgency to trade Versteeg. We could have waited for him to start playing better (hopefully) and generate some interest near the trade deadline. But now we're going to pay him to play for the Hawks, and for the next 2 seasons? Makes me mad. I'm sensitive to this payroll stuff, particularly because we've had a self-imposed cap since Cohen was owner. This trade doesn't make sense to me.

BTW- the Versteeg, Weiss, Fleishman line was a bit on the smallish side. Hopefully, now we'll have a twin tower line or some variation thereof.

I agree with Grier. Is this the way of Tallon helping out his old buddies in Chicago while on the way out the door. Versteeg's value was the lowest in the past three years and Tallon decided now was the time to get rid of him?? Your a crappy GM Tallon and have set us back another few years with your lousy trades...Please fans don't tell me that he drafted Huberdeau and Barkhov!! A monkey could have picked them... Oh by the way Bryan Murray said we were getting bigger and tougher when he trade for Chris Wells.

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