March 11, 2014

DALLAS SCARE HITS HOME: Dan Ellis Thankful Rich Peverley, Friend and Former Teammate, Is Improving

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When Dan Ellis heard Rich Peverley had collapsed on the Dallas bench during Monday night's game, he admitted he was scared and said a prayer for his good friend and former teammate.

Ellis was kept abreast of Peverley's situation from friends on the Stars' staff early in the ordeal and later by Peverley's wife.

"From what I've heard, he's doing well,'' said Ellis, who was traded to the Panthers from Dallas last week.

"You have to hope and pray for the best. You're thankful the doctors did as good a job as they did, thankful he's alive.''

Peverley, 31, didn't play in the season opener against the Panthers after missing the preseason for treatment of an irregular heartbeat. Peverley has been on medication and monitored all season and missed last week's game in Columbus because of it. Peverley did return to play against Vancouver two days later.

"When you can't be there for someone you care about .-.-. it's heartbreaking,'' said Ellis, who often rode with Peverley to games and practices during their time with the Stars.

Ellis said he and Peverley had extensive conversations on Peverley's health and the procedures he had and planned on undertaking.

Peverley was not allowed to drink alcohol or caffeine, Ellis said, and was going to have more work done in the offseason.

"Everything seemed to be under control, he did everything they said he needed to,'' Ellis said. "Then this happens.''


March 09, 2014

BOSTON BREWIN: Bruins Continue Domination of Panthers ... Gudbranson Leaves Game, Status Unknown

Roberto Luongo did slow down the Bruins but not even he could stop them from continuing to beat up on the Panthers.

Actually, few have done much of anything against the Bs lately.

On Sunday, arguably the top team in the Eastern Conference rolled into town and put on a show in the third period, scoring four goals en route to a 5-2 win over the Panthers.

"They have some players and they made some plays, scored some goals,'' said Luongo, who lost at Boston last month while a member of the Canucks. Sunday he made 37 saves.

"We just have to keep playing hard and learn from what happens on the ice. They've won the Cup, are one of the best teams in the league.''

Boston has won five straight games to take over the top slot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have also absolutely owned the Panthers. Boston has won eight straight against Florida including 14 of the past 16 and 20 of 26.

When asked if he was glad his team was done with the Bruins for the year, coach Peter Horachek exhaled. "Yes,'' he said.

Florida went 0-5 against the Bruins this season, not picking up a single point in the standings. Boston also outscored the Panthers 22-8 in the process.

"They are still a benchmark, still a team we have to gauge ourselves against,'' said Horachek, who took over the team a day after Florida lost 4-1 in Boston on Nov. 7 although the decision to fire Kevin Dineen had already been made.

"They are a disciplined team by their system and attitude. They don't have panic to their game. They just keep working at it. A lot of times things go their way.''

The Panthers watched Boston dominate play and keep pressure on Luongo throughout, the Bruins showing no ill effects from beating host Tampa Bay in a long shootout the night before.

Despite being outplayed, the Panthers took the initial lead as Boston native and former Boston College hero Jimmy Hayes followed up a fat rebound to beat backup Chad Johnson seven minutes into the second.

"We have to stay in the games, keep getting the pucks in,'' Hayes said. "We can't score and give them right back.''

The Bruins didn't wait too long to tie things up, getting a reviewed goal from Andrej Meszaros just before the 10 minute mark.

Luongo contested the goal as Carl Soderberg made contact with the Florida goalie as the shot was coming through but that non-call couldn't be enforced by review in Toronto.

"He interfered with it but if they don't call it on the ice, Toronto can't,'' Horachek said.

Boston took control of things in the third, scoring three goals within a five minute span.

Patrice Bergeron made it 3-1 with a power play goal, only Hayes cut Florida's deficit in half 39 seconds later by working the puck between Johnson's skates.

Boston all but ended things 23 seconds after Hayes' goal as Jarome Iginla got his 550th NHL goal by roofing a shot past Luongo. Chris Kelly iced things with an empty net goal with 1:08 remaining.

"We all know they're a good team but they outworked us again despite playing back-to-back,'' Jonathan Huberdeau said. "We should have taken advantage of that and didn't. Hopefully we beat them one day.''


Defenseman Erik Gudbranson had to be helped into the Florida locker room after taking a hit to the knee from Marchand.

Gudbranson hit the ice and was slow to make his way back to the bench.

Horachek said he didn't have a status update following the game. Florida was expected to recall a defenseman from AHL San Antonio anyway, so that move could come Monday.

-- Prior to Meszaros' goal midway through the second, Luongo hadn't given up a goal as a member of the Panthers since their 2006 season finale.

Atlanta's Steve McCarthy scored late in the first period of that overtime win for Florida.

Luongo went 2 hours 13 minutes 23 seconds of game time with the Panthers without giving up a goal over that almost eight-year span.


March 07, 2014

STORYBOOK RESTART: Luongo Shuts Out Sabres in Triumphant Return to Panthers ... Thomas Bobblehead Day is Back On

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Roberto Luongo left the Panthers as the franchise's all-time leader in shutouts back in 2006.

On Tuesday, he returned with his record still intact.

By Friday night, he was already adding to it.

Luongo had a triumphant return with the Panthers as he made 25 saves in Florida's 2-0 win over Buffalo at BB&T Center.

It was Luongo's 66th career shutout and 27th with the Panthers. He had three with Vancouver this season before coming back to Florida in a trade Tuesday afternoon.

"It was nice, a great reception from the start and I thought the boys played extremely well,'' said Luongo, in a Florida sweater for the first time since beating the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 in overtime in the 2006 season finale.

"We're a really fast team. I was impressed by the speed that we generated. The future is very promising.''

Luongo didn't get a lot of goals from Florida's offense although the Panthers did take 44 shots at new Buffalo goalie Michal Neuvirth with coach Peter Horachek saying Florida had 30 scoring chances.

Sean Bergenheim had 12 shots.

Florida's power play -- ranked last in the NHL but not much worse than the one Luongo left behind in Vancouver -- scored twice for the first time since Dec. 3.

The power play got off to a rocky start after Buffalo took consecutive penalties to give the Panthers an extended run.

With Matt D'Agostini in the box, Marcus Foligno was kicked out of the game for running Brandon Pirri into the boards along the Buffalo bench.

Florida wasted most of the 6:35 power play but Jesse Winchester salvaged things. Winchester shoveled a shot past Neuvirth -- fresh out of Washington -- to make it 1-0 midway through the first.

"If that doesn't score, it probably gives them a little confidence and some momentum,'' Horachek said.

The Panthers continued to take aim at Neuvirth, still wearing his Capitals' themed equipment, yet couldn't find the back of the net as Luongo made one nice save after another.

Florida finally gave Luongo some breathing room early in the third when defenseman Dmitry Kulikov rifled a shot from 40 feet away to make it 2-0. Horachek said "Kulikov was outstanding, the best player on the ice".

With Luongo back, it seemed like a lot of Panthers were energized.

"Louie's first game back and this was fitting,'' said captain Ed Jovanovski, playing in his first game with Luongo as a teammate despite all their combined years together with the organization.

"I'm glad he's on our side. I've played with a few elite goaltenders before and he has a pretty good resume. Being able to play with him is nice.''

Luongo came onto the ice to raucous cheers as many in the crowd broke out their old No. 1 jerseys.

Once the captain in Vancouver who had been strung around the past few years with the Canucks, Luongo looked sharp, confident and especially comfortable back in the arena it all started for him in South Florida back in 2000.

"He's really happy to be here and I'm excited for him,'' GM Dale Tallon said. "He's had a tough couple of years and handled himself with class and dignity. He deserves good things to happen.''

Said Luongo: "Shutouts are always nice but in the end it's about the win. We were up one in the third but didn't sit back. It was good.''


The Panthers changed course and will give out Tim Thomas bobbleheads to the first 7,500 fans who attend Sunday's game against the Bruins as scheduled.

Thomas was traded to Dallas on Wednesday, one day after Florida got Luongo back. Thomas' bobblehead is the third to be given out during Florida's 20th anniversary season with three such days later this month.

-- Vincent Trocheck, 20, made his NHL debut Friday with a number of family members from Pittsburgh in attendance.

Trocheck took three shots on 25 shifts.

"I felt confident to use him in a lot of situations,'' Horachek said.


March 06, 2014

WELCOME BACK LOUIE: Roberto Luongo Returns to Florida Panthers Practice for First Time Since 2006

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Roberto Luongo spoke of "returning to normalcy" when he practiced with the Panthers for the first time since 2006 on Thursday afternoon.

Aside from his Vancouver-themed green-and-blue protective pads underneath his black practice jersey, it looked like Luongo had never left.

He even dug up his old Pink Panther-themed hockey mask with palm trees painted on it from his closet.

"I'm not used to wearing the red but it was nice to get on the ice and just do what I do,'' said Luongo, whom the Panthers re-acquired in a trade with the Canucks on Tuesday.

"I stopped some pucks, moved around there and had a good time trying to get to know my new teammates.''

Florida originally traded Luongo to Vancouver in a lopsided deal on the eve of the 2006 NHL Draft conveniently held in the Canadian city.

And although Luongo spent countless hours practicing at the Panthers' training facility -- he paid the team out of his own pocket for the privilege -- during the offseason and 2012 lockout, he'd not been allowed inside the locked doors leading to the team's headquarters.

On Thursday, Luongo was finally given access to all the good stuff which included Tim Thomas' old locker stall. The Panthers didn't have a nameplate ready for Luongo yet but that will be ready soon.

"I work out here during the summer but not in this locker room,'' said Luongo, wearing a red Panthers dri-fit practice t-shirt.

"This is very nice over here, beautiful stuff. I've never been over here. It's great. I couldn't believe how nice it was when I walked in [Thursday] morning. I didn't know they had all these amenities in here.''

On Wednesday, the Panthers sent Thomas to Dallas bringing backup goalie Dan Ellis in return. Florida then sent Scott Clemmensen, Thomas' backup here, to its AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Since Ellis has never played with the Panthers, he didn't have any old gear to bring in as Luongo did. He practiced in his green Dallas pads with matching helmet.

Ellis is signed through next season so he'll be getting some Florida-themed equipment very soon.

"This is a team that has been putting in pieces for the longest time,'' said Ellis, who has a 4-2-3 record against the Panthers in his seven-year NHL career.

"There have been great people around here, great veterans. I think with the new ownership gives stability. In Dallas, new ownership stabilized the team, same in Tampa. That does a lot for you and gives you the ability to grow out. We have some great young players, really good veterans, just picked up a world-class goalie. It's a good place to be.''

-- Dan Ellis photo by KELSEY HINDS/@Kelsey1344



When. Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Buffalo leads 44-30-4

Scouting report: Both teams will have new looks following the trading deadline. Florida has won two of three with its only loss to the Sabres this year coming at home on Oct. 25.





WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Vincent Trocheck Ready to Make NHL Debut with Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Center Vincent Trocheck is expected to have a number of family members at the BB&T Center for Friday's game against the Sabres as the 20-year-old makes his NHL debut.

The Panthers recalled Trocheck on Wednesday as he led San Antonio in scoring this season. Trocheck replaces Marcel Goc -- who was traded to Pittsburgh, Trocheck's hometown -- on Wednesday.

"I'm extremely excited,'' Trocheck said. "I got the call at 3:30, had to be on a plane by 6. I was there early, for sure. It's a dream come true, my goal since I was 5-years-old.''

Drew Shore was sent back to San Antonio despite playing well with the Panthers before and after the Olympic break.

"This gives Vinnie a chance to come up,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "There's a league rule about how many games you can play before you need waivers. He's done a good job, I like Drew Shore. From the first time he got called up, he approached it with a real professional attitude. He knew he was going to be a fourth liner, knew he would kill penalties. He did it with a passion and had an impact.''



MASKED MAN: Roberto Luongo Breaks Out Old 'Pink Panther' Mask from 2006

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When Roberto Luongo walked out onto the Panthers' practice ice on Thursday, he had a familiar look.

Well, sure, he spent five seasons with Florida before being sent to Vancouver in one of the greatest heists in hockey history.

Luongo, not wanting to look like Mr. Plain, went into his closet and dug out his old mask from his final season with the Panthers. He brought it with him to practice and had it dusted off and updated a bit.

Panthers assistant equipment manager Chris Moody said Luongo's old mask is fine for him to wear in games for the time being as there hasn't been many changes in technology for hockey masks since the time he left.

The Panthers had a newer white mask ready for Luongo just in case, however, but he showed up with his old one. The team switched out the straps, sweat band and chin guard and his old mask was ready to go.

A new mask is said to be in the works but won't be ready for a few weeks.


TIM THOMAS: Says he Talked to Panthers About Getting Out Before Luongo Deal

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Tim Thomas flew to Dallas on Wednesday night after being traded from the Panthers earlier in the day.

He took part in the Stars' Thursday morning skate before their game with Vancouver -- who coincidentally had former Panthers' Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom working with their new teammates after coming over in the Luongo deal.

Thomas, like Dan Ellis, was wearing his old equipment for his practice. Like Ellis, Florida's red-and-blue color scheme clashed with Dallas' kelly green.

In meeting with reporters, Thomas said he was happy to be on a team contending for a playoff spot and said he talked to the Panthers prior to the Luongo trade about the possibility about being shipped to a contender. The Luongo trade, he said, only facilitated things.

"From the Florida Panthers perspective,'' Thomas said, "they're looking at it as something to shore up their goaltending for a very long time. They did what they thought was best for their organization.''

Thomas told reporters in Boston on Tuesday, however, that he had not even thought about being traded to a contender because it apparently never came up. The thought here: Thomas figured he was coming back to Florida next year and wouldn't be dealt.

Here is the link to the Dallas Stars' website with video from Thomas talking about his first day with the Stars.

It's worth noting that Thomas' season started at AmericanAirlines Center in Dallas as Florida beat the Stars in the 2013-14 season opener.



March 05, 2014

LOUIE IS HOME: Roberto Luongo Returns to Florida Panthers ... Cats Trade Tim Thomas, Marcel Goc Before Deadline


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When Roberto Luongo hit his pillow for his pregame nap Tuesday, he had no idea what was waiting once he awoke.

After a few years of trying to come back to the Florida Panthers, it came true. Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis called Luongo in the middle of his nap and told him not only would he not be starting for the Canucks later that night in Arizona, but he would be heading home to South Florida.

"I was getting ready to play, I didn't have any idea something serious was going down,'' Luongo said in a re-introductory press conference carried statewide on Fox Sports Florida from BB&T Center.

"There's always rumors floating around but I've been hearing them for a couple of years. You stop listening to them. I was ready to play. It happened quick and caught me off guard. To be honest, I'm still in a little bit of disbelief. It'll be nice to practice with my new teammates and get some normalcy back.''

The deal for Luongo just prior to Wednesday's trade deadline set a number of things in motion including dismantling Florida's goaltending tandem.

Starter Tim Thomas reluctantly waived his no-movement clause and was traded to Dallas. The Panthers got veteran goalie Dan Ellis in return, thereby sending backup Scott Clemmensen to Florida's minor league affiliate in San Antonio.

"We wanted a world-class goalie and a class act like Roberto,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. "We're excited about this. This is the beginning of many solid moves to move our franchise forward.''

Luongo, who played for the Panthers from 2000-06, said his interest in rejoining Florida was rekindled as the team make a run to the playoffs in 2012. Luongo was feeling heat in Vancouver with Cory Schneider making a case to be the starter. Luongo eventually asked for a trade -- with Florida being his main target.

"It really got me excited,'' said Luongo, shipped out in 2006 after a series of events unfolded leading to contract talks stalling with then owner Alan Cohen and GM Mike Keenan.

"I started thinking it would be great to come back and rejoin the team. It took a while and there were some other teams involved along the way, but in the end, I think when I least expected it, something happened. I'm excited about situation moving forward.''

The Panthers couldn't swing a deal for Luongo either in 2012 or last summer when Tallon confirmed he and Gillis talked about it at the draft.

"A lot of people think I want to come here and ride into the sunset,'' said Luongo, 34, who is signed through 2022. "I'm here to win, to bring this team back to the playoffs. I think with the ownership and the promises they've made, we can bring some new guys in and help the young guys along. We can be a contender.''

Rory Babich, named CEO of the team on Monday, says bringing Luongo back is a difference maker for the franchise.

"To be able to acquire a talent like will be tremendously positive for our fans and our players,'' Babich said. "Getting Roberto at the deadline converts the words we've been speaking into action. We really believe the players will get a lift. This is a tough end of the season where we're at, but this is all good.''

With Luongo, the Panthers all but said goodbye to Thomas. On Tuesday, Thomas said he learned about the trade while on the bus heading to the TD Garden.

When asked if he would accept a trade to a contender, Thomas didn't seem to know what to say. It was apparent he and Tallon talked about Thomas coming back next season. He had never really thought about leaving at the trade deadline.

On Wednesday morning, Thomas and Tallon broached the subject.

"I told him the truth, how it went down and what happened,'' Tallon said. "That's just the way it is. It's strictly business. We have to win games, build a solid championship team here. It was a good conversation. I don't blame him for being upset. This is the direction we're going in.''

The Panthers' organization seemingly thought Thomas would be around for a while as well. Sunday's home game against Boston was scheduled to have 10,000 Thomas bobbleheads as the giveaway.

Babich says while the trinkets won't be given out en masse, the team is working on a plan to get them to fans who want them.

"The timing is unfortunate,'' Babich said. "Tim is popular here and we looking forward to honoring him with a bobblehead night. He was important to us.''

Although Luongo said he and Thomas could coexist -- Thomas said the same thing on Tuesday -- it was obvious having two top-end goalies on the same team competing for playing time wasn't going to work for long.

So when the Panthers skate onto the ice for Thursday's practice in Coral Springs -- just a few miles from Luongo's home -- there will be no question who Florida's No. 1 netminder is.

As it was back in 2006, it's Luongo.

"You always feel you have something to prove, there's always someone behind you ready to take your job,'' said Luongo, who still holds the franchise goaltending records for games played, wins and shutouts.

"You have to have that desire to keep getting better and be the best. That, to me, is what it's all about. You have to keep pushing. When I don't have that, I'll step aside.''

-- The Panthers made one other deal before Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline, sending third-line center Marcel Goc to Pittsburgh for a pair of draft picks. Goc is an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

-- Florida also made a few roster moves on Wednesday. Aside from sending Clemmensen down to San Antonio, the Panthers also sent Drew Shore back to the Rampage.

Center Vincent Trocheck, who leads the Rampage with 41 points, is coming up and expected to be in the lineup Friday against the Sabres.

-- The Panthers 11 a.m. practice at the IceDen in Coral Springs is free and open to the public.


WHEELING AND DEALING: Goc, Thomas Only Panthers to Go on Deadline Day

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Tim Thomas Era in Florida is over.

The Panthers traded the two-time Vezina winner to Dallas on Wednesday afternoon after he waived his no-trade clause after Florida picked up Roberto Luongo the day before.

The Panthers got veteran goalie Dan Ellis back in return. Ellis is signed through next season so it appears he is the new backup to Roberto Luongo. That would mean Scott Clemmensen, who cleared waivers at noon, would be heading to San Antonio to play for Florida's AHL affiliate.

Florida also sent Marcel Goc to a contender as the third-line center goes to Pittsburgh. The Pens gave up a fifth round pick this summer and a third round selection in next year's deeper draft.

TSN reported that Thomas wasn't happy about the trade, although I would say he's just not happy with how things went down. Thomas was apparently led to believe he had a future here as the Florida goalie and was content to stick around. Then Luongo came to town and everything changed.

"That's something that hadn't really been discussed,'' Thomas said Tuesday night when asked if he would be willing to move to a contender. Thomas added he learned of the Luongo deal while riding the bus to the arena. He reportedly wasn't real happy about it.

Dale Tallon acknowledged this when he said he would talk to Thomas about it. "This was a business decision,'' Tallon said, adding it was something the Panthers felt they had to jump on. Tallon added that the deal came together "out of nowhere'' thereby covering himself when it comes to previous conversations with Thomas.

We're talking to Thomas in a little bit. Will get into all of this then.

Follow me on Twitter for all the breaking news.


March 04, 2014

A TALE OF THREE GOALIES: What Happens Next for the Florida Panthers Netminders?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- What's next for Florida's goaltending situation?

Well it's pretty obvious that Roberto Luongo is your guy for the foreseeable future.

But what happens to Tim Thomas? Scott Clemmensen?

Well, Thomas said Tuesday that he heard about the Luongo deal on the bus heading to the arena. So, as of Tuesday night, he hadn't spoken to Dale Tallon.

Thomas has a no-trade clause in the one-year deal he signed in September.

Does Thomas stay for the rest of the year? Will he waive his no-trade and move to a contender?

On Tuesday, Thomas said he hadn't thought about leaving until Luongo got here.

"That's something that hadn't been discussed until this point,'' Thomas said. "That needs some discussion before comment.''

Said Tallon: "This all came out so quickly, I'll sit down and talk to Tim and see what he would like us to do. Goaltending is pretty solid with those two guys. We have to talk to Tim and see what he would like to do and we'll do the best we can to make this work. You can't win without great goaltending and we'll see what direction it takes us. We'll have a conversation [Wednesday] with Tim and see where it leads. This is a business decision and we felt we had to do it. It came out of nowhere.''

One would think it is easy money to bet on Thomas leaving but Thomas doesn't always do what everyone thinks. He's his own guy. He smiled at the question of whether he and Luongo could coexist in South Florida.

Tallon said he would like to have both of them stay in Florida.

"I have to see the situation, see what they're thinking,'' Thomas said. "I would like to talk to Dale before I comment on anything.''

Thomas and Luongo could definitely be entertaining together. When the battled in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Luongo seemed to take exception to something Thomas said about his style of play. Thomas responded with a now-famous line that he didn't know he was around to pump Luongo's tires -- which means stroke his ego.

Now the duo are teammates. For the time being.

"I have a line that probably someone else has thought of,'' Thomas said, almost beaming.

"It looks like Dale went kicking some tires and found one that needed pumping.''

Thomas then broke out laughing. When told of Luongo's tweet that said the two would "tear it up" in South Florida, Thomas nodded. Thomas wasn't told Luongo called him 'Tiny Tim.'

"It will be interesting, but I don't know how things will work out,'' Thomas said. "I am looking forward to it. It's going to be fun. It's like, I don't think it will be anything really. We're both old pros, have been in the league a long time and have a lot of experience.''

The future for Clemmensen is a little more murky.

Florida placed Clemmensen on waivers on Tuesday.

A few things can happen.

First, Clemmensen can be claimed by another team by noon and leave Florida.

Clemmensen could end up staying as Luongo's backup if Thomas is dealt, or, Clemmensen could be sent to AHL San Antonio if Thomas sticks around.

Tuesday, Clemmensen said he was just going to worry about what he could control.

"Instead of wracking my head, I'm going to wait it out,'' Clemmensen said. "I have no idea what's going to happen. I'm not going to try and figure it all out.''


DAY OF NEWS: Panthers Play on Ice Doesn't Warrant Any as Bruins Roll 4-1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The big news came off the ice for the Panthers on Tuesday with Roberto Luongo coming back to town and Brad Boyes sticking around a little longer.

Good thing. Florida didn't do much on the ice.

The host Bruins scored twice within a four minute span in the first period and got a David Krejci hat trick en route to a 4-1 win over Florida. Boston has won seven straight against the Panthers.

"I think a lot of people are thinking, am I next, but those are excuses,'' coach Peter Horachek said of the pending trade deadline. "As professionals you can't let that go in. This is a business. Sometimes you will be traded, sometime not. You still have to play.''

Tim Thomas, who may have played his final game with the Panthers thanks to Luongo, made 35 saves. Boston opened the scoring at 7:29 of the first when Krejci picked off a Tom Gilbert clearing pass and beat Thomas. Not long later, Jarome Iginla got in front of Ed Jovanovski and sliced the puck through for a 2-0 lead.

Boston basically ended things when Krejci got his second with 47.6 seconds left in the second period.

Boyes, who signed a two-year deal worth over $5 million earlier in the day, hit a few posts as Florida tried to come back. Florida got its lone goal from Brian Campbell with 7:13 left.

Krejci scored into an empty net with Thomas returning for the final 14 seconds.

BLOCKBUSTER RETURNS TO SUNRISE: Panthers Get Roberto Luongo Back, Tim Thomas Florida Future Decided Soon

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- Roberto Luongo is coming home.

The Florida Panthers reacquired their former All-Star goalie on Tuesday almost eight years after trading him in what is considered one of the worst deals in NHL history.

Luongo originally came to the Panthers along with Olli Jokinen in a similarly lopsided deal -- this one in Florida's favor -- in 2000.

"It's nice, it's home,'' Luongo told reporters in shortly after the news broke.

"The new ownership is committed to winning and there are some good young players there. This is a good opportunity for me.''

Florida gave up goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias for Luongo -- who still resides a few miles from the Panthers' training facility in northwest Broward County. The Panthers also got prospect Steven Anthony, a former linemate of Florida's reigning rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau.

Luongo, who is signed through 2022, is owed roughly $32 million with Vancouver paying 15 percent.

The Panthers are expected to re-introduce Luongo on Wednesday afternoon at BB&T Center.

"It's huge,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. "He's a big name down here. It sets the tone for our franchise. .-.-. [We] want to win the Stanley Cup but talk is cheap. We're acting and following up on what we said we would do.''

Last summer, Luongo requested a trade from Vancouver and the Panthers -- one of the few teams he would waive his no-trade deal for -- looked into making a deal.

With the team for sale and the Canucks wanting a lot for Luongo (reportedly including center Nick Bjugstad) nothing happened. Vancouver dealt Cory Schneider to New Jersey and Luongo, the Canucks' former captain, was Vancouver's starter again.

"Sometimes it takes years to get the right deal done,'' Tallon said.

So, on Monday. Tallon called Vancouver's Mike Gillis to "kick the tires'' and ask about Luongo again. Talks heated up Monday night and Tallon spoke to owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu as well as new CEO Rory Babich to see if he could continue working the deal Tuesday morning.

"I was given the green light,'' Tallon said. "And here we are. I'm excited about. I think it's great for our franchise.''

Said Gillis: "Now that they've gotten new ownership .-.-. they were able to do things.''

Luongo, scheduled to start Vancouver's game in Phoenix Tuesday night, was taking his pregame nap when Gillis woke him with news of the deal.

"I thought my contract was untradable,'' Luongo said. "I wasn't expecting this to happen especially not today.''

Despite being traded by the Panthers' Mike Keenan in 2006 (for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld and Bryan Allen), Luongo never left his home in Broward.

After all, he met his wife Gina while she was working at her father's Italian restaurant in Coral Springs just a mile from the Panthers rink. The Luongo's now have two children and lots of happy relatives waiting in South Florida.

"This is good for my family,'' said Luongo, who is originally from just north of Montreal.

Bringing back Luongo -- who lost his duel with new (if temporary) teammate Tim Thomas in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals -- could be a game-changer for a franchise trying to fight its way back into South Florida's consciousness.

Former Panthers coach Kevin Dineen told Canada's Rogers Sportsnet that Luongo will pay on and off the ice.

"I'm a big believer in Roberto Luongo,'' said Dineen, fired by the Panthers in November. "He's going to his happy place. I think this is going to put him in a good frame of mind which he hasn't been in Vancouver the past few years. He's where he wanted to go. He's still a name in Florida, will bring fans to the building.''

For that, however, the Panthers may have paid a steep price.

Not only will Florida dole out a lot for Luongo in salary -- he'll make $6.714 million the following three seasons before it goes down considerably -- but Markstrom was considered the franchise's 'goalie of the future.'

Tallon says Luongo's track record trumped Markstrom's potential.

"We're getting a great goaltender, a proven commodity,'' Tallon said. "Jacob has great upside but we needed to make a statement. .-.-. You have to pay the price to get guys like this. You don't get Roberto Luongo for nothing.''

Florida could now move Thomas -- named the league's top goalie twice -- as early as Wednesday's trade deadline.

Tallon said he would talk to Thomas and see what he wants to do. Thomas has a no-trade clause, one he may now waive although he said he and Luongo could co-exist.

"I was surprised at first, like a lot of people, I didn't see that coming,'' Thomas said after Tuesday's 4-1 loss in Boston. "I don't know what their plans are right now, so I can't say much. I have to see the situation, see what they're thinking. I'm going to check in with Dale.''

The Panthers also gave up Matthias, the player they got from Detroit in the Bertuzzi (who played seven games with Florida) trade of 2007.

Matthias had three goals in Florida's previous two games.

"I think he may need a change of scenery,'' Dineen said.

-- Lost in the shuffle of the Luongo news were two other moves made by the Panthers. Defenseman Mike Weaver was sent to Montreal for a fifth round selection in the 2015 draft.

Before the Luongo news broke, Brad Boyes signed a two-year deal worth just over $5 million. Boyes, Florida's leading goal scorer, said getting Luongo trade bolstered his decision.

"We're not standing pat, it's not a rebuild,'' Boyes said. "We're going to win some games and I think we're going to do something really big next year. I want to be part of this.''


BLOCKBUSTER FROM SUNRISE: Dale Tallon Talks About Luongo Deal, Effect on Tim Thomas, Scott Clemmensen

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards



As you well know, we had some talks last year. It just didn't come to fruition.

At 3:30 [Monday] afternoon, I had a brief conversation with Vancouver about it, you know, just making calls, kicking the tires asking if they had interest in Luongo. They said we could revisit it and we continued the conversation. We talked again at night, had good conversations [Tuesday] morning.

I talked to Vinnie Viola, Doug Cifu and Rory Babich this morning about the possibility and if I should continue to pursue this. I was given the green light to see what we could get done and we eventually got it done.

And here we are. I'm excited about. I think it's great for our franchise.


On Markstrom going back to Vancouver: We're getting a great goaltender, a proven commodity. Jacob has great upside but we needed to make a statement. Luongo's numbers are terrific. He's already been in this community and is very popular in South Florida. I just like what he brings to the table brining experience and a chance for us to win.

You have to pay the price to get guys like this. You don't get Roberto Luongo for nothing. You have to pay a price and we obviously paid a big price. Jacob is a great young goaltender with a lot of potential but that's what you have to pay sometimes to get value.


Have you talked to Roberto: He's excited, just over the moon about coming back to Florida. I spoke to him very briefly, had to get him on a flight. His family is here, his wife is from here. He's excited to be a Panther again and so are we. The past is the past and we have to worry about tomorrow.


Tim Thomas and can they coexist: This all came out so quickly, I'll sit down and talk to Tim and see what he would like us to do. Goaltending is pretty solid with those two guys. We have to talk to Tim and see what he would like to do and we'll do the best we can to make this work. You can't win without great goaltending and we'll see what direction it takes us. We'll have a conversation [Wednesday] with Tim and see where it leads. This is a business decision and we felt we had to do it. It came out of nowhere, [Monday] around 3, 3:30.


Shawn Matthias: It's time for a change, he's been here for a long time. He's had some great games and not so great games. Consistency has been the issue. I think he probably is welcoming a change, kind of intimated that this year -- his agent has. He has a lot of upside, a good guy who works hard, can skate and has a big shot. But he has to develop consistency. We're giving up two good young assets to get an outstanding goaltender.


The difference on dealing for Luongo this time around: We just couldn't get a deal done. We tried. Both teams didn't think it was a fair deal. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you're the bug, sometimes the windshield. This time we got a deal done. Sometimes it takes years to get the right deal done. We've been going at it hard for a couple of years. We finally got it done.


Boyes: We agreed to terms on a two-year deal.


Canucks taking 15 percent of salary: Yes I can.


How big is that: It's part of doing business in a hard cap and it's going to happen numerous times moving forward. You do what you have to do. It's part of the deal process. It made sense.


Assessment of Luongo's game: He's still one of the elite goaltenders in the league, was on the Canadian Olympic team. Won a Gold Medal. His numbers are phenominal, took his team to the Stanley Cup Finals and got beat in Game 7. He's a solid goaltender and can play a lot of minutes. You can't win without great goaltending.


Talking to Tim on no trade: He has a big game in Boston; we'll talk after the game [Tuesday] or [Wednesday] morning.


The splash of Luongo: It's huge. He's a big name down here. It sets the tone for our franchise. Vinnie, Doug, Rory and I want to win the Stanley Cup but talk is cheap. We're acting and following up on what we said we would do. We traded for Luongo, picked up [Brandon] Pirri and resigned Boyes. We're looking to get better every day in achieving our goal of the Stanley Cup.


Scott Clemmensen?: Clemm will probably have to spend some time in San Antonio. We'll see what happens next day and a half. We won't have that answer until 3 [Wednesday].


Weaver: We're going to get a good look at Petrovic, Roback and Racine; We have good young defenseman in our organization, in junior and college. We're looking to the future. Montreal was looking for a solid defensive defenseman. We felt it was a good thing for Mike Weaver to get into the playoff picture and have a good opportunity to win in Montreal. He's a great warrior, played his butt off for us. I wish him well.














LOUIE SPEAKS: Roberto Luongo Speaks to Media Following Trade Back to Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards


Well the deal is official, the Panthers are getting Roberto Luongo back. And, the Canucks are eating a portion of the salary -- as expected.


Below, in italics, is the Panthers' official release. Under than are comments from Luongo to media before he left for the airport for a flight to South Florida.


G Roberto Luongo Returns to Florida Panthers

Florida Re-Acquires Three-Time NHL-All Star & Vezina Trophy Finalist

SUNRISE, Fla. - Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announce today that the club has acquired G Roberto Luongo and F Steven Anthony from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for F Shawn Matthias and G Jacob Markstrom.

“Roberto is one of the game’s elite goaltenders and we are happy to welcome him back to South Florida,” said Tallon. “With this acquisition, we have solidified our goaltending depth with a top-tiered netminder for the next several seasons. Roberto is a three-time Vezina finalist, who has experienced tremendous success throughout his 13-year playing career, which includes six post-season appearances, including the Stanley Cup finals, two Olympic Gold Medals and three All-Star selections. We look forward to his contributions to our club on the ice as well as his continued philanthropic efforts in the South Florida community.”

Luongo, 34, has played in 789 career National Hockey League games for NY Islanders (1999-2000), Florida (2002-2006) and Vancouver (2006-2014) posting a 367-305-92 mark with a 2.51 GAA, a .919 save percentage and 65 shutouts. He ranks second among active goaltending leaders in wins (367), saves (21,487) and shutouts (65). He also places third among active goaltending leaders in games played (789).

The three-time Vezina Finalist (2004, 2007 & 2011) has played in 64 postseason games, all with Vancouver, posting a 32-31 mark with a 2.54 GAA, leading the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals during the 2010-2011 season. Luongo, was also awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy in 2011 (the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it).

The Montreal, Quebec native currently ranks first among Panthers’ goaltender leaders in several all-time categories including career games played (317), single season games played (75), career wins (108), single season wins (35), and career shutouts (26). He also own Florida’s single season records for most saves (2,303 in 2003-2004), most minutes played (4,304 in 2005-2006) and consecutive scoreless minutes (182:37 in 2004).

Luongo has represented Canada numerous times on the international stage, appearing in the last three Winter Olympics (2006, 2010 & 2014). He won the Gold Medal at both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. During the 2010 Winter Games, Luongo posted a 5-0 mark with one shutout and a 1.76 GAA. He also won Gold at the World Championships (2003 & 2004) and World Cup (2004).

Luongo was drafted by the NY Islanders with their first choice (fourth overall) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.

Anthony, 22, was drafted by Vancouver in the seventh round in 2009 NHL Entry Draft. A Hailifax, Nova Scotia native, Anthony played his junior hockey with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). He most recently spent time playing for the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) and St. Charles Chill (CHL).

Roberto Luongo’s Career Statistics:

Season Team Lge GP Min GA EN SO GAA W L T Svs Pct


1995-96 Val d'Or Foreurs QMJHL 23 1199 74 0 0 3.70 6 11 4 534 0.878

1996-97 Val d'Or Foreurs QMJHL 60 3305 171 0 2 3.10 32 21 2 1571 0.902

1997-98 Val d'Or Foreurs QMJHL 54 3046 157 0 7 3.09 27 20 5 1390 0.899

1998-99 Acadie-Bathurst Titan QMJHL 22 1342 74 2 0 3.31 14 7 1 690 0.903

1999-00 Lowell Lock Monsters AHL 26 1517 74 1 1 2.93 10 12 4 733 0.908

1999-00 New York Islanders NHL 24 1292 70 2 1 3.25 7 14 1 660 0.904

2000-01 Louisville Panthers AHL 3 178 10 0 0 3.38 1 2 0 111 0.917

2000-01 Florida Panthers NHL 47 2628 107 6 5 2.44 12 24 7 1226 0.920

2001-02 Florida Panthers NHL 58 3030 140 4 4 2.77 16 33 4 1513 0.915

2002-03 Florida Panthers NHL 65 3627 164 7 6 2.71 20 34 7 1847 0.918

2003-04 Florida Panthers NHL 73 4251 172 7 7 2.43 25 33 14 2303 0.931

2005-06 Florida Panthers NHL 75 4305 213 4 4 2.97 35 30 9 2275 0.914

2006-07 Vancouver Canucks NHL 76 4490 171 3 5 2.28 47 22 6 1998 0.921

2007-08 Vancouver Canucks NHL 73 4233 168 3 6 2.38 35 29 9 1861 0.917

2008-09 Vancouver Canucks NHL 54 3181 124 5 9 2.34 33 13 7 1418 0.920

2009-10 Vancouver Canucks NHL 68 3899 167 4 4 2.57 40 22 4 1748 0.913

2010-11 Vancouver Canucks NHL 60 3590 126 3 4 2.11 38 15 7 1627 0.928

2011-12 Vancouver Canucks NHL 55 3162 127 2 5 2.41 31 14 8 1450 0.919

2012-13 Vancouver Canucks NHL 20 1197 51 0 2 2.56 9 6 3 500 0.907

2013-14 Vancouver Canucks NHL 42 2418 96 0 3 2.38 19 16 6 1061 0.917


Steven Anthony’s Career Statistics:

---Regular Season --- ---- Playoffs ----

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM


2007-08 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 55 6 8 14 38 10 1 1 2 2

2008-09 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 67 19 29 48 47 4 1 2 3 4

2009-10 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 61 18 23 41 28 5 0 0 0 6

2010-11 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 61 23 37 60 23 14 5 7 12 12

2011-12 Kalamazoo Wings ECHL 34 8 12 20 28 -- -- -- -- --

2012-13 Kalamazoo Wings ECHL 41 3 8 11 10 -- -- -- -- --

2013-14 St. Charles Chill CHL 33 4 10 14 10



I was not expecting it. Go figure, right? I'm really out of words right now. This caught me off guard. This is good for myself and my family, but I'm a little sad to be leaving Vancouver.


It's nice, it's home. It's going to be a little tough to get in this season but we'll have to deal with that. The new ownership there is committed to winning and there are some good young players there. This is a good opportunity for me.


I didn't know what was going on at all. I was actually taking a nice pregame nap getting ready to play. It was kind of weird.


Listen. I thought my contract was untradable. It hurt I didn't play in that game but I was ready to play tonight. I moved on, was ready to go. I wasn't expecting this to happen especially not today.


Things happen and I've had to deal with them. To be quite honest, I felt really good today, felt like I was going to have a good game. I think I did a good job of putting things behind me and moving on.


Obviously a lot of great things happened here. We had a great run and unfortunately fell a little short. That's the one that's going to hurt me for a while. I wish we could have done more to win that game. All in all, it was a great run. There was a lot that happened in between, but nothing but good things to say about the fans who were really supportive -- especially at the end. It didn't go unnoticed. This organization took me to another level. It's all positive stuff.


On Tim Thomas: Yeah I did. We'll see how that goes, right?


It's tough for everyone, involved in this process. They had tough decisions to make. I can understand that. I understand management has tough decisions to make. When they were made, I tried to handle them as best I could. And right when I let my guard down, what do you know, a trade happens. That's the way it goes.


I spoke to a few guys, but obviously I have a flight to catch. They play in Florida in a few weeks, so I'll see you there.


I haven't had a chance to think about it but it's going to weird for sure. I don't know how else to put it. It's going to be weird. I've played with a lot of these guys for seven, eight years. To be playing against them will be weird.


Nothing out of the ordinary. It really caught me off guard.


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- Things just got real for the Florida Panthers

Roberto Luongo is coming home.

Luongo has confirmed that the Canucks have traded him back to the Panthers. Luongo, who continues to reside a few miles north of Florida's training facility in Coral Springs, had been working on coming back to the team for some time.

Under Mike Keenan, the Panthers traded Luongo to the Canucks in a lopsided deal on the eve of the 2006 NHL Draft being held in Vancouver. Florida got Bryan Allen, Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld in that deal.

The Panthers reportedly are sending Jacob Markstrom -- long considered their goalie of the future -- to Vancouver.

Luongo and Tim Thomas, who famously battled it out in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, are now teammates. Scott Clemmensen, put on waivers on Tuesday, may be headed to San Antonio.

More as we move along....


BOYES IS STAYING: Panthers Sign Leading Goal Scorer to Two-Year Deal

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The Panthers traded Mike Weaver on Tuesday afternoon but kept one of their top unrestricted free agents in the fold later in the day.

Brad Boyes, who came to the Panthers on a training camp try out, signed a two-year deal with the Panthers worth an average of $2.65 million.

Boyes, who leads the Panthers in goals and is second in points, said last Saturday after the loss in Columbus that he was hoping to be able to swing a deal and stay in South Florida.

Done and done.

More later.


MIKE WEAVER: Off to Montreal (via California) as Florida Panthers Make Move

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- Mike Weaver shook hands and said goodbye to a few teammates before leaving Boston Garden after Tuesday's morning skate, then went back to the team hotel and saw most of them anyway.

Weaver, in his final year of his second two-year contract with the Panthers, was traded to Montreal not long after Florida's workout at the Garden. The Panthers got a fifth round pick in the 2015 draft for Weaver.

Weaver went back to the team hotel to gather his belongings and tie up little things like turning in his team-issued iPad. Weaver apparently left the charger for it at home in South Florida.

Montreal is currently on a west coast swing so Weaver, 35, was catching a flight out of Logan on Tuesday evening and meeting his new team in Anaheim. The Canadiens lost the opener of the trip Monday in Los Angeles.

"I'm still trying to wrap my mind around things, still kind of in shock,'' said Weaver, who was in his fourth season with the Panthers and one of their team leaders.

"I'm meeting the team in Anaheim and going on the west coast trip we were supposed to be going on later in the month. I'm excited about the opportunity. We have a great team.

"This could be fun. The energy inside the building in Montreal is just amazing. Being a part of the Montreal Canadiens really is amazing. It's Original Six. The tradition behind that jersey is amazing. The nerves are going to be going, but they'll be good nerves.''

Yet leaving Florida was bittersweet for Weaver.

"I loved it here, this is a great place to play,'' he said. "Florida has great weather, great facilities. I wish I could have been part of the new ownership moving forward. I wish them all the best. I had a great time in Florida.''

Before the trade, it looked like the Panthers were going to make Weaver a healthy scratch as he and Scott Gomez -- who was put on waivers at noon -- did the post-practice bag skate.

Weaver then came into the room and spoke to a few reporters before being pulled aside and told about the deal to Montreal.

"This is the first time I've ever been through this. We'll see what happens,'' Weaver said after the morning skate. "This is all new to me. When I first came here, I was part of the rebuild. And we're still rebuilding. It's part of the business.''

When asked if he had thought about Sunday's game on Long Island being his last with the Panthers, Weaver smiled.

"I'm not really thinking about anything right now,'' Weaver said. "If it happens, it happens. If not, everything is the same. I've had a great time here but we only made the playoffs once in four years. I would have liked a few more shots at that, won some more games. I wish we had a better penalty kill this year. But things happen. Either way, I'll deal with it.''

Gomez wasn't the only Florida player to find his way onto the waiver wire as goalie Scott Clemmensen was waived as well. If both clear -- or are picked up -- that frees up roster spots for the Panthers going into Wednesday's trade deadline.

"You're a professional so you just go out and play, whether it's with this team or another,'' Clemmensen said. "You don't worry about what may happen in the future. You worry about today.''


March 03, 2014

FINAL ACT: Michael Yormark Leaves Florida Panthers, Rory Babich & Dale Tallon to Split Duties

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- After a tumultuous decade of running the Florida Panthers and its related companies, team president Michael Yormark left the organization on Monday.

Yormark is now president and Chief Strategy Officer for Roc Nation, an entertainment and sports marketing firm headed by Jay-Z. Yormark begins his new job Wednesday in New York although his family will remain in Boca Raton.

The Panthers made the playoffs once since he joined the franchise in 2003, although the Broward County-owned BB&T Center became a top entertainment venue and helped keep the hockey team financially afloat.

"I'm thrilled,'' Yormark told the Miami Herald on Monday evening. "At the end of the day, I've been here 11 years. I've had a lot of opportunities come my way during that period of time. But I've done everything I can do here.

"Based on what I controlled and what I could impact, I did everything I could. This opportunity really puts me on a global platform. This takes me to a completely different level in my career. I had to go for it, I really did.''

Rory Babich, a New York-based attorney, has been advising new owner Vinnie Viola since he bought the franchise in September. Babich becomes the team's new CEO and president.

Babich will work with general manager Dale Tallon on both the hockey and business side of the organization. Both were named alternate governors of the franchise on Monday.

Tallon and Babich have been working together since Viola and Doug Cifu took over the organization.

"We're incredibly optimistic,'' Babich said. "Vinnie and Doug bought the team with the belief it can be very successful in South Florida. Dale and I certainly share that vision. That's why we're both here today.''

Said Tallon: "We've developed a good relationship in a short amount of time. We're going to be partners in all these initiatives on and off the ice. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be great.''

Viola has said the Panthers will increase their payroll significantly next season and be closer to the salary cap ceiling ($71 million) than its floor.

With the NHL trade deadline coming Wednesday, Florida has the lowest payroll in the league but is expected to be busy.

Tallon is shopping a number of pending free agents who he doesn't feel fit with the Panthers' future plans. Tallon could also bring in players to help finish this season and return next year.

"We're building for the future obviously, but that's a whole different process,'' Tallon said. "This is another stepping stone.''

The departure of Yormark didn't come as a complete surprise as rumors had been circulating since last month following his appearance at a Broward County Board of Commissioners workshop in which the Panthers are requesting to restructure their contract and lessen (or completely erase) their financial obligation for use of the Sunrise arena.

Yormark has been at the forefront of the team's dealings with the county over the past decade and secured funding for a $4.2 million scoreboard and video command center last summer.

The commission appears poised to help the Panthers shed a good portion of their financial obligation to the county on a lease that runs through 2028.

Babich will join Cifu in working with the county as Yormark moves on.

"Having a strong hockey franchise here in a county-owned arena that brings in all of the top acts really does benefit the city of Sunrise, Broward County, right from the beaches to the Everglades and all of South Florida,'' Babich said. "We're looking to be cooperative and continue discussions with the commissioners.''

Brett Yormark, Michael's twin brother, is CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and the new Barclays Center and a business associate of Jay-Z.

Roc Nation as well as concert promoter Live Nation have had a close relationship with Yormark and Sunrise Sports & Entertainment over the years. Two of Yormark's closest employees with the Panthers recently took jobs in New York with Roc Nation.

When Viola and Cifu bought the team last summer, Yormark was promoted to CEO and allowed a small financial stake in the organization from stock options. Yormark will not take any ownership in the team moving forward.

"I'll still catch games when I can,'' Yormark said, "catch concerts and shows here when I can -- especially when we have our artists here. I'll be around. I wish Vinnie and his family the best of luck. I hope they can take this thing to the next level. That's what our fans want to see. I'll be cheering for them.''


MICHAEL YORMARK TALKS: Takes Pride in Keeping Florida Panthers Alive

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Below is the transcipt from an interview I did with former Florida Panthers president Michael Yormark on Monday evening.

There is some pretty good stuff in here.

And regardless of what you think of Yormark or how he ran the organization these past 11 years, you have to give him credit for continuously and tirelessly working to make things work down here. The guy just never stops.

Anyway, here you go:

I'm thrilled. At the end of the day, I've been here 11 years. I've had a lot of opportunities come my way during that period of time. But I've done everything I can do here.

I came here to build a first-class organization, to put this building on the map, to help this arena, to make the hockey team relevant in South Florida. Based on what I controlled and what I could impact, I did everything I could.

This opportunity really puts me on a global platform. This takes me to a completely different level in my career.

I had to go for it, I really did.

The easy thing would have been to stay, continue to do the same thing I did for 11 years. But I'm in the prime of my career and this opportunity opens up numerous doors. I'm working with such talented people at Roc Nation. It's one of the leaders in entertainment space on a global level. I'm just excited to be part of it.

This was once in a lifetime and it allows me to integrate entertainment with the sports side. It's really never been done before. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to miss being down here, but I'm going to stay in South Florida, my family is still living in Boca Raton. I'll still catch games when I can, catch concerts and shows here when I can -- especially when we have our artists here. I'll be around. I wish Vinnie and his family the best of luck. I hope they can take this thing to the next level. That's what our fans want to see. I'll be cheering for them.


When I look at my legacy here, I look back and I helped keep hockey alive here in South Florida.

If you think about it, we had one playoff experience in 11 years. Yet the team is still here. We have a thriving arena, a thriving entertainment business. The team is hopefully about to turn the corner. Will all of that we kept moving the business forward. We built a brand that was revelant in the market and I'm proud of that. I can't tell you how many e-mails I got from people today, from fans to partners to business associates who said 'Michael, we appreciated your 24/7 effort. You did it against all odds.'

Think about it. And I told my staff this today, since I've been here, we've had multiple owners, coaches and general managers as well as two work stoppages. And, the Heat have won three championships -- and working on a fourth -- the Marlins won a championship. And on the entertainment side, there is all kinds of new places that have opened in the past 11 years. Case in point, the Hard Rock. Despite all that, we survived. We continued to move the business forward.

When I look back, I'm proud of what I accomplished. We didn't get a lot of help, but we perservered and worked our butts off every single day. I will tell you, we always had the hardest working staff in America. Every person who worked for this organization over the past 11 years worked 24/7 to build this brand and help keep this business alive. That's what I'm most proud of, I really am.

The difference from where I am and where I'm going is here, the challenge was to keep it alive. Where I'm going, the challenge is to build something great. I have an opportunity to really build something with Roc Nation, Jay-Z and the senior management team here. Where I've been the past 11 years, I was focused every day on surviving in a very competitive market. We did.


NEW MANAGEMENT: Rory Babich, Dale Tallon Meet the Media

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Here is the Panthers' official release on their new management team with Michael Yormark leaving the team for a gig with Roc Nation. My conversation with Michael comes up next.

Below the italicized press release is the transcript from Rory and Dale's teleconference with the South Florida media on Monday night.



SUNRISE, FLA - The Florida Panthers and its parent company Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, LLC announced today that Rory A. Babich has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer and President. Michael R. Yormark, the former CEO and President, announced today that he is resigning to accept an offer to join Roc Nation. In his capacity as CEO and President, Mr. Babich will be responsible for all business and hockey operations, where he will partner with Dale M. Tallon, currently the Executive Vice President and General Manager, who will also have his responsibilities expanded to include business operations. Both Mr. Babich and Mr. Tallon have also been named as Alternative Governors to the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors.


Panthers owner Vincent Viola said, “We appreciate Michael's many years of hard work and service to the organization and wish Michael much continued success in his new role. While we are sorry to see Michael leave, he has received an offer for a tremendous opportunity and we are fortunate that we will be able to continue working with him in his new role. Rory has been working with us throughout our acquisition of the team and has been partnering with Michael on the business side and Dale on the hockey side since he joined us. Rory and Dale have developed an extremely close working relationship and we look forward to having them continue our mission to develop a team that makes Sunrise, Broward County and South Florida proud on and off the ice and continues to attract sports-loving tourists from all over the world to Broward County. We will continue to focus on bringing the Stanley Cup to Broward County and South Florida while also offering the best entertainment and biggest names at BB&T Center in Sunrise."


Panthers co-owner Douglas Cifu said, “I have known Rory for nearly 25 years. He is an experienced senior business executive with an incredible knowledge of sports in general and hockey in particular. Together with Dale Tallon, who led the effort to build the foundation of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and is building a similar model here with our young guns, the two of them will pool their talents as we advance on our journey to bring the Stanley Cup to South Florida."


Growing up in the sports world with a father who was a college baseball coach and doubled as a sportswriter, Babich, who was born in NY, NY, has been working with the owners of the Panthers since they started exploring buying the team last summer. Before launching his consulting business, Babich was a senior executive responsible for running the day-to-day business of a division of Fortress Investment Group, a financial services company listed on the NYSE. Babich also has over 20 years of experience as a leading international corporate attorney. Babich said, “I am very excited about this opportunity to help take the team and the organization to the next level as we build a successful hockey team while also strengthening our bonds with our many supporters throughout Sunrise, Broward County and South Florida and having hockey-loving fans from Europe who vacation in South Florida adopt our team as their team. I could not ask to work with a better partner than Dale, and we are very optimistic about the future.”


Tallon, originally from Noranda, Canada, has been an Executive Vice President and the General Manager of the Panthers since May 2010. After helping build the Chicago Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup winner, Tallon is now in the process of working with Babich to replicate that success through careful drafting and development of young players with additional players added through trades and free agency. During his tenure, Tallon has led the Panthers to their first Southeast Division title during the 2011-2012 season and was selected as a finalist for the National Hockey League’s 2011-2012 Executive of the Year. Tallon said, “In the time we have been working together, Rory has become a trusted partner on the hockey side for me and I look forward to working with Rory on all parts of our business. Vinnie has given us the authority to become a cap team and we look forward to adding the right pieces and building the team the right way to ensure long-term success.”


We're very optimistic about the future here. Dale and I have been working together for a number of months and have built up a very close working relationship. Dale and I, together, will be partnering on all aspects of our business. Hockey, business and entertainment as we work on growing the business in Sunrise, Broward County and South Florida.


I've been involved in different sports throughout the years in the New York/New Jersey area. In terms of baseball, basketball, hockey -- there have been different roles over the years. Hockey is a sport I have loved ever since I've been a child. I was a longtime New York Rangers fan, have been a season ticket holder for over 20 years. I've followed the sport very closely. Since joining the Panthers, I've been working with Dale working on our strategy moving forward.


As everyone is aware, Vinnie and Doug purchased this team in September. Really, the vision of this franchise comes right from the top. We've been working closely with Dale since the new owners came in. Me stepping in as CEO doesn't change the vision of the owners or their commitment to build a successful franchise down here, make ourselves a cap team and continue the disciplined mind that Dale has instituted.


On Broward County: Obviously the owners have been part of this process and I'll be stepping in. Doug has met with the commissioners and will continue to interact with them as I get involved. As we look at the situation, I think it's always important to remember, when Vinnie and Doug bought the team and took the approach on going to the county commissioners with their request to help build a stable long-term franchise here, committing their own money as well as asking for additional support from the county to help support these initiatives, everything is meant to be supportive as we deal with the county and local residents. Having a strong hockey franchise here in a county-owned arena that brings in all of the top acts really does benefit the city of Sunrise, Broward County, right from the beaches to the Everglades and all of South Florida. We're looking to be cooperative and continue discussions with the commissioners. Any time something goes before the county in the States, there's always healthy debate. That's part of being in a democracy. We recognize that and welcome healthy debate around the issues and continuing the discussion.


We're incredibly optimistic. When Vinnie and Doug bought the team -- and we've seen this in other areas where franchise have been moved or various commitments made before owners purchased -- Vinnie and Doug bought the team with the belief it can be very successful in South Florida.

Dale and I certainly share that vision. That's why we're both here today.

We really do believe in building a successful franchise both on and off the ice, attracting the top talent and building that supportive fan base. People ask if hockey can really make a go of it in South Florida in a non-traditional market. The reality is South Florida is an incredible sports market. People like exciting sports. The team will be improving and building the bonds with the community. We're looking at a lot of community outreach either youth hockey or other areas where the Viola family and the Panthers can support the community. On all fronts, success on and off the ice, we believe the sky is the limit here.




I think this is an exciting time for us. Rory and I have been together since December and have developed a close relationship in a short amount of time. We have the same philosophy. We're partners in this and we're excited about what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. We're going to work together as a team to bring a Stanley Cup to the Florida Panthers and their fans.


On Bill Torrey: He'll have the same role he's had since I've been here; that's right there beside us at all time. He's involved in all decisions. I rely on him heavily because of his great knowledge and experience. He's a champion. Nothing is changed as far as that concerned.


Trade deadline: I think it's a different thing. We're building for the future obviously, but that's a whole different process. This is another stepping stone. First we look at the deadline to see what suits the franchise as far as the future is concerned. Then we'll focus on the draft and after that, free agency. We'll be aggressive in all those areas. Every move we make in the next day-and-a-half will be with regard for what's best in regard for this franchise in winning Stanley Cups.


Brad Boyes: We're still in negotiations. We've made an offer, had discussions today with his agent. We're hopeful we can get something done.


On meeting Rory: I wasn't apprehensive. We've been on the same page since the first day we met. I like Rory's personality and his approach to things. We're very similar in a lot of ways. We agree to disagree on some things, but we're very civil. We've developed a good relationship in a short amount of time. We're going to be partners in all these initiatives on and off the ice. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be great.


Dale booking concerts?: Why not. A little bit of country, little bit of rock and roll. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.