« May 2010 | Main | July 2010 »

25 posts from June 2010

June 30, 2010

Hey! Panthers Looking for Free Agents Too

Lebron As the Miami Heat try and keep Dwyane Wade and possibly add a couple more superstars to its roster when the NBA's free agency period finally opens Thursday morning, the Panthers will go about their business a little quieter and much more under the radar.

Yes, Thursday is the start of the NHL's free agency period as well.

The Panthers aren't expected to make an offer to LeBron James. Or Ilya Kovalchuk, either. Florida will likely add a few pieces to its roster – a center, a couple of forwards, a defenseman – in the coming weeks.

Just don't expect any superstar additions to the team from Sunrise.

“I don't know how aggressive we're going to be, but we're going to try to get better and find players who make sense for us at this time,'' said general manager Dale Tallon, whose team has 17 NHL regulars under contract for next season.

“I don't think we're going after the top guys, but good guys that can help us and not affect our future.''

The Panthers were about $7 million under the salary cap last season and are currently about $12 million under this year's cap of $59.4 million. Florida still needs to sign a couple of its restricted free agents, but are said to have a budget under what was spent last season.

So, even thought the Panthers are flush with cash under the cap, that doesn't mean they are going to spend it.

“We're going to look at everything and everyone,'' Tallon said. “It's important that we get better. A lot of guys are signed to long term deals so it's harder to find that blue chip guy at the right price.''

Last year, with the team's ownership in flux, the Panthers were very quiet in the free agency period. Florida signed defensemen Ville Koistinen and goalie Scott Clemmensen on the opening day of trading, later adding Jordan Leopold, Dominic Moore and Dennis Seidenberg.

Only Clemmensen remains; Leopold, Moore and Seidenberg were traded away last season with the final year of Koistinen's contract bought out after he cleared waivers.

Koistinen will count about $267,000 against the cap this upcoming season. “He didn't work out,'' Tallon says. “That happens. We'll move forward and move on.''

-- The Panthers will hold their rookie camp at their training facility in Coral Springs in the week prior to training camp. The Panthers are scheduled to open camp on Sept. 10.

June 28, 2010

Surprising News

SOMEWHERE OVER TEXAS -- Good afternoon. Just flying home from a most eventful week at the NHL draft and awards and figured I would pass a little news along: Ville Koistinen has been put on waivers by the Panthers.

You can now resume your day.

Surprising News

June 26, 2010

And Then It Was Done: NHL Draft Finally Finished

Draftdone LOS ANGELES – The Panthers have been through rebuilding processes before, but aside from the franchise's early days when it was built into a winner, none have brought much success.

Dale Tallon hopes he's the one to help change that. He would like to think he'll someday look back at this past week as the start of a new era for hockey in South Florida.

Time, of course, will tell.

“We have to look at the future and what we're going to do down the road,'' Tallon said. “That's more important than standing still today.''

Tallon took away from the present Panthers in the past few days, but feels he didn't do too much damage. The Panthers plan on rebuilding while still being competitive.

On Tuesday, Tallon traded top offensive threat Nathan Horton to Boston for a defenseman and a high draft pick; Friday, he sent defenseman Keith Ballard to Vancouver for another high pick and exciting winger Michael Grabner as well as Steve Bernier.

Saturday, Tallon added 10 young players to the organizational depth chart in the second and final day of the NHL Draft.

“This was a very good couple of days,'' Tallon said near the end of the proceedings at Staples Center. “We have a good array of players to rebuild our foundation.''

All told, the Panthers had three picks in Friday's opening round and four more in the second and third on Saturday. Florida's 13 overall picks were tied for second most in franchise history, one fewer than the team's inaugural draft class of 1993.

The haul included eight forwards, four defensemen and a goalie.

“We have a lot of fire,'' Tallon said. “I watched a lot of Panthers games when I was in Florida on television and it was an easy game. We don't want to give anyone an easy game. People have to come in and earn their stripes. We don't want a bunch of idiots, we want a real solid team with players who care and are passionate and pay the price to win.''

In the second round, Tallon's first pick was left winger John McFarland, a talented scorer who thought he should have been picked much, much higher. McFarland was considered the 10th best North American skater not too long ago, but his stock had slipped.

McFarland says he's eager to prove he should have been taken in the first round. He wants to begin doing that when the Panthers hold rookie camp at the end of the summer.

“I'm glad it fell into place with Florida,'' said McFarland, who scored 50 points off 20 goals with Sudbury, Ontario, of the Canadian junior leagues last year. “Things happen, it's happened to many people before me who expected to go earlier than they did. It's disappointing, but today's a new day. There's a little more motivation than there was before.''

Tallon says he loves McFarland's grit and determination, saying he hopes he comes to camp with a little chip on his shoulder. “He's got a little nastiness to him,'' Tallon said.

Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting, says the McFarland is probably a year away from competing for a roster spot with the Panthers, Tallon indicated all who come to training camp have a chance to make the Panthers in the fall.

If you play, Tallon said, the sky is the limit.

“I don't care how old you are or where you're from,'' Tallon said. “Everyone is going to get an equal opportunity to play for the Florida Panthers next year. If your 18 and make our team? Great. If not, go back to junior and be successful in the future.''

One of those players who will have a chance to make the team in the coming years is defenseman Alexander Petrovic. The Panthers took the 6-foot-4 bruiser from Red Deer, Alberta, just three selections after McFarland.

Petrovic is another player who came to the L.A. arena on Friday night expecting to go home with a team's jersey – only to leave disappointed and being forced to wait until the draft's second day. His wait on Saturday wasn't long at all.

“You get a little mad because you are competitive and want to go in the first round,'' Petrovic said. “I woke up with a smile on my face knowing I was going to be drafted. The pressure is off my shoulders. But it's huge motivation to prove some of those teams wrong.''

Meet The New Panthers



Acquired: Trade with Boston for Nathan Horton on June 22

Last year – Boston: 6 goals, 24 assists in 76 games

Age: 27; Contract: 2 seasons remaining, $3.94 million per; UFA after 2011-12

Scouting report: Wideman will try and help Florida's anemic power play as 40 of his 144 career points have come with the man advantage. Wideman has a right-handed shot, something the Panthers sorely needed.


Acquired: Trade with Vancouver for Keith Ballard on June 25

Age: 25; Contract: 1 season remaining, $2 million; RFA after 2010-11

Last year – Vancouver: 11 goals, 11 assists in 59 games

The skinny: An average offensive threat, Bernier will likely play on one of Florida's two lower lines, trying to get in front and create traffic. Of Bernier's 11 goals last season, four were game-winners.


Acquired: Trade with Vancouver for Keith Ballard on June 25

Age: 23; Contract: 1 season remaining, $843,000; RFA after 2010-11

Last year – Vancouver: 5 goals, 6 assists in 20 games

The skinny: Fans in Vancouver are sorry to see the exciting Grabner go as many feel the Panthers created grand larceny by getting him in the Ballard deal. Grabner scored 11 points in his first 20 NHL games last year.


Acquired: 3rd overall pick, 2010 Draft

Age: 18

Last year – Kingston (OHL): 2 goals, 21 assists in 41 games

The skinny: Gudbranson needs to put on some weight, but he's big and strong and expects to make the Panthers out of training camp. The Panthers could decide to send him back to his junior team in Kingston, however, if they feel he would better develop there.


Acquired: 19th overall pick, 2010 Draft

Age: 17

Last year – Blaine HS (Minn.): 29 goals, 31 assists in 25 games

The skinny: Skipping senior year of HS and currently enrolled at University of Minnesota. Named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey in 2010. Will play for Gophers as a freshman.


Acquired: 25th overall pick, 2010 Draft

Age: 18

Last year – Moose Jaw (WHL): 28 goals, 37 assists in 65 games

The skinny: Howden ended up averaging a point a game for Moose Jaw last season with 28 goals and 37 assists in 65 games. Howden played for Canada at the under-18 World Championships, scoring four goals with two assists in six games.


Acquired: 33rd overall pick (second round), 2010 Draft
Age: 18

Last year – Sudbury (OHL): 20 goals, 30 assists in 64 games

The skinny: Ranked 15th overall in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings for North American skaters, the Panthers hope they got a steal early in the second round.


Acquired: 36th overall pick (second round), 2010 Draft

Age: 18

Last year – Red Deer (WHL): 8 goals, 19 assists in 57 games

The skinny: Petrovic's stock rose as he greatly improved his play on both ends of the ice in 2009-10. Petrovic was part of Canada's entry in the world under-18 tournament.


Acquired: 50th overall pick (second round), 2010 Draft

Age: 18

Last year: Des Moines (USHL): 22 goals, 21 assists in 52 games

The skinny: A University of Vermont commitment, Brickley plays with a lot of energy and admits he needs to slow things down and let the game come to him. Cousin is former Bruin and current broadcaster Andy Brickley; dad Craig was drafted by the Kings in 1974.


-- RW Joe Basaraba (third round, No. 69): Played at hockey factory Shattuck-St.Mary near Minneapolis – the prep school that produced Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise and Jack Johnson. Basaraba will play at Minnesota-Duluth next season.

-- G Sam Brittain (fourth round, No. 92): A big goalie who is still growing, Brittain will move from the Alberta Junior Hockey League to the University of Denver where he hopes to replace Panthers prospect Marc Cheverie in net.

-- D Ben Gallacher (fourth round, No. 93): Will return for his third season in the Alberta junior league before moving on to Ohio State in 2011-12.

-- RW Joonas Donskoi (fourth round, No. 99): Scored 29 points off 15 goals playing for the Karpat junior team in Finland. Was ranked the No. 14 European skater coming into the draft.

-- C Zach Hyman (fifth round, No. 123): Will return for another season with the Hamilton Jr. Red Wings before playing at Princeton in 2011-12.

-- LW Corey Durocher (sixth round, No. 153): Scored 15 goals with 11 assists in 66 games with Kingston of the OHL last season. Is a junior league teammate of Gudbranson.

-- D R.J. Boyd (seventh round, No. 183): Born in Sarasota, Boyd learned the game on Florida's west coast before moving north to Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. The Panthers considered drafting Boyd last year.

More Panthers News, Notes from Draft

The Panthers took defenseman Ben Gallacher in the fourth round, a move that usually wouldn't create much interest being that the 17-year-old will spend another season in the Alberta junior league before moving on to Ohio State in 2011.

Only Gallacher's dad has been making headlines of late as the billionaire Calgary oilman has been named as one of the finalists to purchase the Dallas Stars. Bill Gallacher owns the Portland Winterhawks of the Western junior Hockey League, and various reports say he's offering close to $200 million to buy the Stars away from Bill Hicks.

Hicks is also trying to sell the Texas Rangers but that sale has been tied up because of his various financial obligations and court proceedings.

As for Ben Gallacher, he's ready to continue to grow his game and is excited to take in a Buckeyes football game in the Horseshoe once he gets to Columbus.

“I heard they can hold 109,000 in that building,'' Ben Gallacher said. “I'm looking forward to seeing some games in there.''

-- The Panthers did not offer a qualifying offer to forward Nick Tarnasky, making him a free agent. Tarnasky came to the Panthers in a Thanksgiving Day trade with Nashville in 2008 for Wade Belak.

Florida also let go Luke Beaverson, Peter Aston, Dan Collins and Andrew Sweetland.

Restricted free agents who were tendered qualifying offers were: Mike Duco, Jason Garrison, Jordan Henry, Kenndal McArdle and Tyler Plante.

From the Sawgrass Expressway to Broadway?: Andrew Yogan Makes Florida Hockey History

Yogan2LOS ANGELES -- There have been players born in Florida taken in the NHL draft before.

But until Saturday, no player who was born and raised in the Sunshine State had ever been selected by an NHL team.

Andrew Yogan, who says he still has a poster of Pavel Bure hanging on a bedroom wall, made history on Saturday when the Rangers took him with the 100th overall pick of the 2010 Draft at Staples Center.

The Panthers had ample chances to take Yogan, who grew up playing in Pompano Beach and Coral Springs. In fact, the Panthers took Finnish winger Joonas Donskoi with the 99th pick they acquired in a trade with the Wild earlier in the day.

The Panthers, however, made defenseman R.J. Boyd the second Sunshine State raised player selected when they took him 183rd overall in the seventh round. Boyd was born in Sarasota and played youth hockey on the west coast.

While being picked by the Panthers would have been pretty cool, Yogan couldn't stop smiling as he talked about being selected by the Rangers.

"That would have been nice, but I'm real excited to be part of the Rangers organization,'' said Yogan, who plays for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League after leaving South Florida at age 15. "It's now my goal to play for the Rangers one day. I'm going to reset my goals and do that. When the Rangers come to South Florida, there's usually more Rangers fans there than Panthers. So I'm excited. It happens all the time.''

Yogan1 Yogan hopes he is the first of many South Florida kids to travel to the draft and hear their name called. Youth leagues are blossoming in the tri-county area, and the St. Thomas Aquinas high school team recently finished second in a national tournament.

Yogan began playing hockey after catching Panthers fever during the 1996 run to the Stanley Cup Finals. He started playing at Glacier Ice Arena in Pompano before moving on to the Junior Panthers at Incredible Ice. 

Other NHL draftees with South Florida ties include Blake Geoffrion and Sam Gagner.

Geoffrion was born in Plantation but moved to Tennessee at an early age; he was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft by Nashville. Gagner, whose father Dave played for the Panthers, started playing ice hockey in Coral Springs but moved away when Dave was traded to Vancouver and eventually retired and relocated to Canada.

Sam Gagner was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Oilers.

"Hockey was slow there to start, but it really started to grow,'' said Yogan. "It's really growing. I think you're going to see some Florida kids in the next couple of drafts. I'm excited to be the first one.''

Boyd was born in Sarasota and didn't start playing until he was 10. Boyd attended Edison Prep in Fort Myers before moving north to the Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. Boyd, XX-XX, will play at Sacred Heart University in the fall.

June 25, 2010

The Dust Settles, Tallon Not Ready to Rest ... Panthers Have Nine Lives/Picks

Tallon3 LOS ANGELES -- Don't look now, but Dale Tallon looks refreshed and ready to take on the second day of the NHL Draft.

The Panthers new general manager has much to play with as he goes into Saturday's second round.

And he says he's ready to do something with those assets.

“We're open to any suggestions,'' Tallon said. “We're not going to sit still. We're going to have some fun, experiment and take some risks. We're going to see what happens.''

Tallon traded Nathan Horton to Boston on Tuesday, getting back defenseman Dennis Wideman and the 15th overall pick in return.

On Friday, he traded defenseman Keith Ballard and winger Vic Oreskovich to Vancouver for Steve  Bernier and Michael Grabner as well as the 25th overall pick.

Tallon also traded that 15th pick to the Kings for the 19th pick and the 59th.

“We have to look at the future and what we're going to do down the road,'' Tallon said. “That's more important than standing still today.''

Going into Saturday, Tallon has four second round picks (Nos. 33, 36, 50 and 59), two fourths (92, 93), a fifth (123), sixth (153) and seventh (183).

“We're taking one step at a time. We have a ton of picks, we're going to address some needs and see where we go from there,'' he said.

As far as the Ballard trade goes, Tallon said that deal got rolling throughout the day. As he said earlier, 10 teams had interest.

“We were going to put it on the backburner and see what happened,'' Tallon said. “But the pieces started falling together in a hurry. It peaked our interest and we were able to seal the deal as the day went on.''

On Bernier: “He's a low-down guy, has a good shot, can score some goals from the slot and the corner. He's good down low, a strong kid who was a former first round pick.''

On Grabner: “He has tremendous speed. He can really skate. That's something I love, a lot of speed. He's an upside guy. He's just starting to develop. That's good for us. He can grow with our other young players. Once that first round pick was in, it was an easy deal to do.''

Draft Day 1 Complete: Dale Tallon Talks Picks, Ballard

Draftend LOS ANGELES – Dale Tallon was perhaps the busiest person at the Staples Center on Friday as the new Florida general manager lived up his his reputation as a wheeler and dealer.

Tallon made two trades on Friday, one to move down in the draft and acquire a later pick. His first trade, however, was a little bigger.

The Panthers sent defenseman Keith Ballard and forward Vic Oreskovich to Vancouver in exchange for forwards David Bernier and Michael Grabner.

That deal brought the Panthers their third first round draft pick of the night.

With the third overall pick, Florida took defenseman Erik Gudbranson. The Panthers also took centers Nick Bjugstad (19th) and Quinton Howden (25th).

“We feel great, it was a great turning point for our franchise,'' said Tallon, the architect of the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. “This was a very successful day at the draft. We filled some needs with some good young players. I'm very elated with what happened today. I'm elated.''

The Ballard deal broke just before the draft started, but didn't become official until late in the night. Vancouver made the deal conditional on the 25th pick and could have used the selection if it so wanted. In that case, the Panthers would have taken Vancouver's first round pick next year.

Ballard came to the Panthers in Florida's 2008 draft night blockbuster, the one in which Jacques Martin sent captain Olli Jokinen to Phoenix in exchange for Ballard and defenseman Nick Boynton. Ballard then promptly signed a six year deal with the Panthers before ever suiting up for them. The money is one reason Ballard is off to Vancouver.

Ballard has five years left on his deal worth $4.2 million each season. The Panthers saved about $2 million next year as Grabner and Bernier make considerably less money. Tallon said Ballard was “in big demand,'' with 10 teams asking about him.

“Money always comes into play, but that wasn't the reason for this,'' Tallon said. “I talked about assets that are tradable. You can't trade guys who aren't wanted. We need to fill a lot of needs and you have to make decisions to fill the depth chart and go in the right decision.''

Last year was a rough one for Ballard after his infamous hit on teammate Tomas Vokoun. In a loss in Atlanta, Ballard went to smash his stick across the goal cage in frustration after a Thrashers goal. Ballard instead hit Vokoun in the head, sending the Panthers goalie to the hospital.

Vokoun ended up being fine and the two joked about it on the plane ride home.

News of the potential trade broke Thursday night when it was learned St. Louis had interest in Ballard. In a text message on Saturday morning, Ballard joked that he wasn't going to sweat things out. Instead, he spent the day golfing in Minnesota, “trying to chase down birdies.'' After the trade, he said it was a bittersweet day.

“I wanted to be part of the solution in Florida,'' said Ballard. “I'm going to a great hockey team in a great city with a chance to win. Initially, the idea of being traded I didn't like. I wanted to help build the team in [Florida]. But in the past 24 hours, it prepared me. I wasn't shocked.''

The Panthers picked up two good young forwards in the deal, with both becoming restricted free agents after the upcoming 2010-11 seasons.

The trade was just another big deal conducted by the Panthers around the draft. Last year, Randy Sexton traded Jay Bouwmeester's negotiating rights to Calgary. Roberto Luongo was traded to Vancouver in 2006, Tomas Vokoun was acquired in 2007 and Jokinen was shipped off in 2008.

Tallon previously traded Nathan Horton to Boston for defenseman Dennis Wideman and the 15th overall pick in Friday's draft. The Panthers then traded the 15th pick to Los Angeles for No. 19 and 59.

By taking Gudbranson, the Panthers found a defenseman who may be able to help them next season. Gudbranson, however, isn't taking anything for granted.

“I want to be there really bad. I think I can make a difference right when I get there,'' Gudbranson said about the Panthers. “Certainly I'm going to have to do a lot of work. There are some great players there and it's going to be a lot of competition. I understand I'm going into that camp even par with the seventh round pick taken. You know it's going to be great competition. It's going to be tough to make that team.''

Banking On The Minnesota Kid: Panthers Select Prep Star Nick Bjugstad 19th

NickbjugLOS ANGELES -- The Panthers apparently gambled and won on Friday, trading the 15th pick to Los Angeles and coming up with high school star Nick Bjugstad at No. 19.

Bjugstad graduated early from Blaine HS in Minnesota so he could enroll in the University of Minnesota early and play for the Gophers in 2010-11.

A 6-foot-4 center, Bjugstad was Minnesota's Mr. Hockey last year.

"I'm moving on to the University of Minnesota and I'm excited about that,'' he said. "I think every kid growing up in Minnesota wants to play for the Gophers. That wasn't a tough decision for me. It should be good.''

"I met with Florida on Thursday. They are a great team, a great organization.''

"It's been kind of a whirlwind overall, a lot of stuff going on with the draft, winning Mr. Hockey. It's been a good time. I've enjoyed it.''

"Everyone who says they're not nervous, I don't know if I believe them. You hear about the projection list but you never know. You just go where you go. You can't have expectations. I'm excited going to Florida.''

"I'm going to try and do my best to improve these next couple of years and hope to turn into an NHL player.''

"Florida is big on character and they got to know me quite a bit. They wanted to know I was a good kid overall who works hard.''

"I heard about the Ballard trade, and that's tough. I'm sure the team will do just fine next year.''

Talking, Playing Big: Erik Gudbranson Says He'll Make Panthers in 2010

Erikguddraft1 LOS ANGELES -- The Panthers went with the smart, safe move on Friday night by taking 6-foot-4 defenseman Erik Gudbranson with the third overall pick at the NHL Draft.

Dale Tallon announced the pick. He was joined on stage by Randy Sexton, Bill Torrey, Scott Luce and others.

Here's what Erik had to say about joining the Panthers:

“I worked hard for this. There's a lot of work to be done, but I'm excited about this opportunity.''

“This is where I want to be, where I set my goal. I have to work on my hands, gain some weight. But I think I can play at the NHL level next year.''

“I did my research on their team. With Dmitry Kulikov there, I can be a good compliment to him on the backend. The real attraction is having Dale Tallon there, seeing what he did in Chicago, building a team that won the Stanley Cup from scratch. I'm very excited to be a part of the Florida Panthers. They're going in the right direction. There's no doubt in my mind I wanted to be there.

“I feel it starts now. We're going to build up and turn into a force in the NHL in the next couple of years.''

“I didn't know I was going there until I was selected. It was a very serious interview, but Dale Tallon kept it loose. I came in being myself and I think they appreciated that.''


“I did hear about that just before I got here. It's not about the players who are leaving. I'm competing with the players who are there. I'm trying to earn a spot. I'm going to go and compete. If I have to beat out people, I will.''

Erikguddraft2 “I think that I can make it. It's all about hard work and what I put in this summer. I could still go back to Kingston, but my goal is set and has been for a long time. I want to be an NHLer at 18. If I went to the Panthers or anywhere else, I want to make it. I did watch as many Panthers games as I could this year and I think I'm a good compliment to them.''

“I'm a top 5 pick, a very high pick and I'm extremely honored to be here. It's an unbelievable feeling to be picked this high. Congrats to [Hall and Seguin] but there are other guys out there.''

“I portray a tough image and I back it up. I play tough, like to drop the big hits. When it comes to dropping the gloves, I have no fear in doing that whether its a small guy or a big guy. That's a part of my game that I like to portray and that's not going to change.''


“It's a huge honor and it was a friendly competition between those guys. They are all going to be great NHL players. There's no doubt they'll have great careers, but to be the first picked is a huge honor. That's all I can talk about.''


“I'm staying here for a little vacation, but that doesn't mean I can't get some work in. I'm certainly going to get into the gym as soon as possible, on the ice with NHL guys as soon as possible.''

“I want to be there really bad. I think I can make a difference right when I get there. Certainly I'm going to have to do a lot of work. There are some great players there and it's going to be a lot of competition. I understand I'm going into that camp even par with the seventh round pick taken. You know it's going to be great competition. It's going to be tough to make that team.''

“I'm staying here until Thursday. Unless the Florida Panthers want me to go somewhere else.''

Panthers Trade Official, Keith Ballard Off to Vancouver

  Ballard3LOS ANGELES -- After two seasons with the Panthers, Keith Ballard is moving once once more.

The former Phoenix Coyote is off to Vancouver after Dale Tallon traded him west for forward Steve Bernier and the No. 25 pick in tonight's draft.

This trade is not official nor has it been announced. The Canucks could still keep their 25th pick if there is a player they like. If that's the case, Florida gets Vancouver's first pick next year.

This is an obvious salary dump, with Ballard making $4.2 million in each of the next five seasons.

Bernier, who scored 11 goals with 11 assists in 59 games for the Canucks last season, is making $2 million next season and is a restricted free agent in 2011.

Florida also gets Michael Grabner and gives up Victor Oreskovich.

Grabner, a right wing, makes $843,000 (which is a touch more than VicOres) and is a RFA after next season.

While it's a salary move, Bernier is a good player and now Tallon has three picks in the top 25. Look for another move, probably involving moving up in the draft.

The fun is just beginning.

-- Ballard came to the Panthers in 2008 when Jacques Martin sent Olli Jokinen to the Coyotes for Ballard, Nick Boynton (whom the Panthers let go after one season and won the Cup with the Hawks earlier this month) and a draft pick.

-- The Panthers last big trade with the Canucks came in 2006 when Florida sent Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek west for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld and Bryan Allen. The Panthers hope this won works out better than that one.

-- The Panthers will also have a lower salary this coming season than they did in the last. While the Nathan Horton-Dennis Wideman trade was a financial wash, this latest deal cuts $2.2 million. More moves are apparently on the way.

Welcome to the NHL Draft: Home of the Florida Panthers

LadraftLOS ANGELES -- The Panthers don't do many things well, but they sure know how to steal the headlines around draft time.

Today could be another one of those days.

The Panthers are poised to make another big move as Keith Ballard is said to be as good as gone. Heard last night that St. Louis was very interested in Ballard and Stephen Weiss, although I don't think Weiss is going anywhere.

Ballard is keeping an eye on things as he plays golf in Minnesota. Word is Vancouver is going hard for Ballard. The Canucks have the 25th overall pick tonight.

And if Dale Tallon has his way, Ballard will not be the only Panthers player to become an ex. Rostislav Olesz has been peddled to every team in the league -- including four or five in the AHL and a few in the KHL -- but so far, no buyers. Or takers. Whatever.

I'm going to be roaming the Staples Center draft floor, so for instant updates, follow our Twitter site @OnFrozenPond

Will have blogs throughout the night, but that's where the news is going first (only because it's easier to do on the iPhone than filing a blog post here).

Will keep y'all updated as we go through the night.

-- Even though it's been over a week since the Lakers beat the Celtics, purple and gold confetti continues to fall from the rafters at Staples Center. The Lakers banners in the upper deck have been covered up by black curtains. Rumors that the USC band that plays at Laker games would play the draft were completely made up by me.

June 24, 2010

More Stuff from The Panthers at the NHL Draft

Here's just a few more things from the Draft:

-- Dale Tallon says he's going to work on hiring an assistant GM, a director of player personnel and assistant coach for the Panthers after the draft.

He says he has been looking around for Florida's second assistant, but will know who is out there after contracts expire and such on June 30.

I then asked if that meant Mike Kitchen was officially out. Tallon said no. But it sure sounds like it.

Also, don't expect former GM Randy Sexton to be offered the assistant GM gig.

-- Tallon says don't expect the Panthers to get one of the top two picks. Well, if he couldn't get the No. 2 out of Boston in a Nathan Horton deal, I don't know what he has left to give them to get it now.

Edmonton is not trading the No. 1 pick, especially to a Panthers team with little to offer. The Panthers could make a deal with the Oilers for the 15. The Penguins could also have a deal working for that selection.

An NHL Premier: The Draft Goes Hollywood ... Panthers Expected to take Gudbranson

Eclipse LOS ANGELES -- The NHL Draft seems to be a big deal here in Los Angeles where the red carpet is out and the streets around the Staples Center are blocked off as fans are running around gawking and screaming.

Oh wait. That's for the Twilight: Eclipse premier that's happening here.

Never mind.

OK, well, the NHL Draft is a big deal. But since it has nothing to do with vampires (or Kristen Stewart) it's not going to get the same kind of coverage in Hollywood as this premier will get.

At least a number of the kids who are here for the draft will partake in the movie experience well.

"You can't do that anywhere but here,'' Cam Fowler said, the Hollywood sign a few miles behind him serving as the backdrop.

Defenseman Erik Gudbranson was invited to be part of the premier tonight, but he's got better things to do. He's meeting with the Panthers and won't make it. He says that's cool, that hockey's way more important.

Goldie is here though, wearing fake teeth to make Gudbranson feel like he really didn't miss anything.

-- PS: For those of you who want instant updates from here, follow us on Twitter or Facebook. I can instant message to those sites very quickly. And I do.

Twitter: @OnFrozenPond

Facebook: On Frozen Pond

-- Here's my story on Gudbranson, the guy I have been told is going to be a member of the Panthers come Friday night:

– Friday will be a watershed moment in the young life of Erik Gudbranson, an 18-year-old hockey player who will be taken high in the NHL draft.

ErikgudLA Only the day Gudbranson says he has circled on the calendar is August 18. That's the day his little brother Dennis celebrates his five year anniversary of being in remission from leukemia. At that point, Dennis is considered fully recovered. Dennis, now 13, had a bone marrow transplant in 2005.

“Knowing my brother is safe and is completely cured of one of the worst illnesses in the world means that will be definitely be the biggest day of my life,'' said Gudbranson.

Sometime after 7 p.m. EST on Friday, Gudbranson could be the newest member of the Florida Panthers and make his first trip to the Sunshine State since the Make-a-Wish Foundation flew he and his family to Orlando for a trip to Disney World.

Florida has the third overall pick and will likely take a defenseman. Once forwards Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall are taken first and second, the draft turns towards strong defensemen in Gudbranson (ranked the No. 4 overall North American skater by NHL Central Scouting), Brett Connolly (No. 3), Cam Fowler (No. 5) and Brandon Gormley (No. 6).

“That's the way the draft is falling, the two forwards and then four back-end guys on defense,'' said Panthers general manager Dale Tallon.

“In the 10 years I've been involved with combines, this is the best I've seen it as far as character guys, personality and size. These are good kids. Very few red flags at all. Obviously everyone thinks the first two are in a class by themselves. But we think from No. 3-50, we're going to get some guys, a lot of top notch players.''

A few signs on Friday pointed to Gudbranson being Florida's choice at No. 3 – with two general managers within the Panthers division saying they are penciling him in as Florida's selection.

Not only is Gudbranson a physical specimen at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds who plays a tough brand of hockey. But Gudbranson is also a good looking, well spoken player the team will be able to market to South Florida.

On Thursday night, Gudbranson met with the Panthers draft contingent at the Omni Hotel – skipping an invitation to be part of the red carpet at the Twilight:Eclipse movie premier a few miles away at the LA Live complex near Staples Center. Hockey was more important than the paparazzi.

“It will be an honor to be drafted high, a true honor, and I'm not taking away from that,'' said Gudbranson. “But when training camp opens, I'm on par with every other draft pick. I understand that I have to make whatever team takes me.''

With the third pick, the Panthers have plenty of options – but need a hit. The player Florida selects will have a great chance to make the opening night roster, and the Panthers would love to get a player who contributed as much as 19-year-old Dmitry Kulikov did for them last season.

Kulikov was the 14th overall pick last year who only scored three goals with 13 assists for the Panthers but logged heavy minutes and was given a lot of responsibility.

Magicstaples The Panthers also have the 15th overall pick after trading Nathan Horton to Boston on Tuesday. Tallon is open to trading that selection if he gets the right deal – and he expects to be a busy man on Friday. The Panthers are basically an open store with only a handful of players – Kulikov, David Booth, Michael Frolik for instance – are said to be off the market as Tallon tries to build up the roster.

On Saturday, the Panthers have at least 10 more draft picks as the selection process picks up in the second round. Florida has five of the first 50 picks and seven in the top 100 going into Friday.

“We have some excellent options,'' said Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting. “If the right guy is there, we're going to take him and not outsmart ourselves. We have lots of selections to use. We're going to utilize them.''

June 23, 2010

NHL Awards Are In: H.Sedin Wins Hart, Ovechkin Takes Ted Lindsay, Miller Gets Vezina

VegasLAS VEGAS -- Good afternoon from the beautiful Palms Hotel in Nevada, the fun-time capital of the world.

The NHL Awards are being presented tonight, and although no Panthers are nominated for anything (save for Keith Ballard's blooper of the year), I'm here reporting for you, the loyal Miami Herald reader.

I mean, after all, the deal is being held in Las Vegas.

I will be keeping you updated on all the awards and celebrities hanging out as things go. The awards come on at 7 p.m. MT so check it out.

If nothing else, it's an excuse to turn on Versus again.

-- Jay Mohr, formerly of SNL and a few other projects, killed in his opening monologue. Mohr's targets included the Bruins, Capitals, Coyotes, Lindsay Lohan and the Jacksons. He left the Panthers alone.

Too easy, probably.

-- Alex Ovechkin had won the NHL's two biggest individual awards in each of the past two seasons. It looked like the Washington Capitals star winger was going to sweep those awards for a third straight year.

Only Vancouver's Henrik Sedin got in the way.

Sedin became the first player in Vancouver's 40-year history to win the Hart Trophy on Wednesday night at the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel.

Sedin garnered 894 total votes from the Professional Hockey Writers Association – beating Ovechkin by 50. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby finished third, followed by Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller and Phoenix keeper Ilya Bryzgalov.

Florida's Tomas Vokoun received a single fifth-place vote for the Hart, tying him for 23rd.

“It really means a lot. This is a great day,'' said Sedin, who led the league with 83 assists. Five of his career-high 29 goals were game-winners for the Canucks. “It's a strange feeling. I'm very proud of this.''

Ovechkin didn't leave the party empty handed however, as he won the Ted Lindsay Award – the players vote on the league's most outstanding player – for the third straight year. Ovechkin also joined Sedin on the NHL All-Star first team. Ovechkin became the first player since Wayne Gretzky to win the award three straight years and only the third player (Guy Lafleur) to ever do so.

The Buffalo Sabres were well represented at the awards show, with Miller winning the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie. Defenseman Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy for top rookie.

Miller, who led Team USA to a silver medal in Vancouver earlier this year, had never won the Vezina before. Miller took 23 of the first place votes, beating out Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov who had five. Former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson finished fifth in the voting with two second place votes and three thirds.

Miller also received the NHL Foundation Award for his charitable work.

“Great company. I've looked up to those goaltenders,'' Miller said. “It's pretty amazing, all the history on this trophy. To get my name on it is pretty cool.''

Phoenix's Dave Tippett was honored as the league's top coach after leading the Coyotes into the playoffs despite the franchise's many off-ice distractions. Tippett beat out Nashville's Barry Trotz by a count of 291-60, getting all but two first place votes. Those went to Detroit's Mike Babcock.

“We were a team no one gave much of a chance to at the beginning of the season,'' Tippett said. “We used that as a motivating factor. We did a lot more than a lot of people thought, but in Phoenix, we just look at it as a beginning.''

Other winners included Chicago's Duncan Keith winning the Norris Trophy for being the top defenseman; Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis won the Lady Byng for gentlemanly conduct, and Phoenix's Shane Doan won the King Clancy Award for humanitarian contribution.

June 22, 2010

Lost in the Flood: Panthers Schedule Released

FloodLAS VEGAS – Lost in the big news that Nathan Horton was traded is that the Panthers unveiled their schedule today.

The good news is we're going to Nashville again this year and will also have a California trip in December.

The bad news? Canada in February.

The NHL released the 2010-11 schedule on Tuesday, with the Panthers opening the season Oct. 10 in Edmonton, Alberta. The team will play its first three games out west (Vancouver on Oct. 11 and Calgary on Oct. 14) before playing host to the Lightning for the home opener on Oct. 16.

The Panthers will play three home games in the opening month, with all six road games in October played on Canadian soil. Florida visits Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal from Oct. 26-30.

“I really like our schedule, it's by far the best preseason, training camp and regular season schedule we've had in the short time I've been here,'' said coach Pete DeBoer.

“We're heading west to start the season, but you don't mind starting the season there. You like to start on the road with your group, get some games under your belt.''

As usual, the Panthers will be home for the holidays, with Pittsburgh, Boston and the Rangers visiting at Thanksgiving. The Bruins – and new winger Nathan Horton – visit Sunrise on Dec. 27 with Montreal playing in Sunrise on New Year's Eve at 5 p.m. for the second straight season. Horton's first visit as a member of the Bruins comes on Nov. 24.

The Panthers also have a seven game homestand in March, tied for longest in franchise history.

Each team in the Eastern Conference will visit Sunrise twice, with Southeast Division teams coming to town three times. Florida will also play host to Stanley Cup champ Chicago on March 8 as well as the Red Wings on Feb. 18.

Western Conference teams making a visit include Dallas, Minnesota, Colorado, Nashville, St. Louis, San Jose and Columbus.

The Panthers will make trips to western Canada as well as Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago and Columbus.

Panthers 2010-11 Schedule




Sun.                10      @ Edmonton               8 p.m.                       

Mon.              11      @ Vancouver              10 p.m.

Thu.                14      @ Calgary                   9 p.m.

Sat.                 16      vs. Tampa Bay            7 p.m.

Thu.                21      vs. Dallas                     7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 23      vs. NY Islanders         7 p.m.

Tue.                26      @ Toronto                  7 p.m.

Thu.                28      @ Ottawa                    7:30 p.m.

Sat.                30       @ Montreal                 7 p.m.



Wed.              3        vs. Atlanta                  7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  5        vs. Carolina                 7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 6        @ Carolina                  7 p.m.

Wed.              10      vs. Toronto                 7:30 p.m.  

Fri.                  12      vs. Minnesota            7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 13      @ Philadelphia           7 p.m.

Wed.              17      @ Atlanta                    7 p.m.

Thu.                18      @ Boston                    7 p.m.

Sat.                 20      @ NY Islanders          7 p.m.

Mon.              22      vs. Pittsburgh             7:30 p.m.

Wed.              24      vs. Boston                   7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  26      vs. NY Rangers          7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 27      @ Tampa Bay             7:30 p.m.



Wed.              1       @ Anaheim                 10 p.m.

Thu.                2       @ Los Angeles          10:30 p.m.

Sat.                 4       @ Phoenix                   8 p.m.

Tue.                7       vs. Colorado               7:30 p.m.

Thu.                9       @ Washington           7 p.m.

Sat.                 11      @ Nashville                8 p.m.

Wed.              15      vs. Carolina                 7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  17      vs. Buffalo                   7:30 p.m.

Mon.              20      @ Philadelphia           7 p.m.

Wed.              22      @ Pittsburgh              7 p.m.

Thu.                23      @ Buffalo                    7 p.m.

Mon.               27     vs. Boston                   7:30 p.m.

Fri.                   31     vs. Montreal                5 p.m.



Sun.                2       vs. NY Rangers          5 p.m.

Mon.              3      @ Carolina                   7 p.m.

Wed.              5       vs. Atlanta                  7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  7       vs. Carolina                 7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 8       @ Washington           7 p.m.

Tue.                11      vs. Washington         7:30 p.m.

Thu.                13      vs. Nashville               7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 15      vs. New Jersey           7 p.m.

Mon.              17      vs. Atlanta                  7:30 p.m.

Wed.              19      vs. Columbus              7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  21      vs. Tampa Bay            7:30 p.m.

Sun.               23       @ New Jersey             1 p.m.

Tue.               25       @ NY Rangers            7 p.m.

Wed.               26     @ Boston                    7 p.m.



Tue.                1       @ Toronto                  7 p.m.

Wed.              2       @ Montreal                 7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  4       @ New Jersey             7 p.m.

Tue.                8       vs. St. Louis                7:30 p.m.

Thu.                10      vs. Buffalo                   7:30 p.m.

Sun.                13      vs. San Jose                5 p.m.

Wed.              16      vs. Philadelphia          7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  18      vs. Detroit                   7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 19      @ Tampa Bay             7:30 p.m.

Mon.              21      @ NY Islanders          1 p.m.

Wed.              23      @ Ottawa                    7:30 p.m.

Fri.                  25      @ Atlanta                    7:30 p.m.

Sun.                27      vs. New Jersey           5 p.m.



Tue.                1       @ Carolina                  7 p.m.

Thu.                3       vs. Montreal               7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 5       @ Atlanta                    7 p.m.

Sun.                6       vs. Washington         5 p.m.

Tue.                8       vs. Chicago                 7:30 p.m.

Thu.                10      vs. Ottawa                   7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 12      vs. Tampa Bay            7 p.m.

Tue.                15      vs. Philadelphia          7:30 p.m.

Thu.                17      vs. Toronto                 7:30 p.m.

Sat.                 19      vs. NY Islanders         7 p.m.

Tue.                22      @ NY Rangers            7 p.m.

Wed.              23      @ Chicago                  8:30 p.m.

Fri.                  25      @ Buffalo                    7 p.m.

Sun.                27      @ Pittsburgh              1 p.m.

Tue.                29      @ Columbus               7 p.m.

Thu.                31     vs. Ottawa                   7:30 p.m.



Sat.                   2      vs. Pittsburgh             7 p.m.

Wed.                 6     @ Washington           7 p.m.             

Fri.                   8      @ Tampa Bay             7:30 p.m.

Sat.                  9      vs. Washington          7 p.m.

Horton, Soup Say Thanks and Good Day to the Panthers

Hortonsoup LAS VEGAS – When Nathan Horton told general manager Dale Tallon he wasn't sure he wanted to play for the Florida Panthers anymore, Tallon didn't hesitate on making sure Horton didn't have to.

Horton, the third overall pick in 2003, was traded to Boston on Tuesday along with grinder Gregory Campbell.

The Panthers got back defenseman Dennis Wideman as well as the 15th overall pick in Friday's draft.

Florida also received Boston's third round pick next year.

“You have to move what you can move, have to move the assets that are valuable commodities,'' said Tallon, who was named Florida's ninth general manager in May.

“Sometimes have to make these moves looking Horton forward to the future. [Horton] was obviously frustrated in what had happened in the past. He wanted me to see what was out there for him. He felt it might be better if he could go somewhere else. Nothing surprises me in this business. We have to do what's best for the Florida Panthers period.''

Said Horton: “I think it's time. It's been a great time in Florida, but it hasn't worked out well for anyone who has been there the past couple of years. It might be good for change.''

Horton did say that he enjoyed playing in South Florida, noting that it has become his home. He and wife Tammy were married there and their son Dylan was born there. But playing for the Panthers had become frustrating as the team hasn't made the playoffs in an NHL record-tying nine consecutive seasons.

Going to a tradition-rich franchise like Boston seems to have Horton, whose agent is Bruins legend Bobby Orr, excited.

Since Horton joined the Panthers, the franchise has had five different coaches (Mike Keenan, Rick Dudley, John Torchetti, Jacques Martin and Pete DeBoer) as well as five different general managers (Dudley, Keenan, Martin, Randy Sexton and Tallon).

“I'm not saying anything bad about the organization, but there have been five coaches in the time I've been there,'' Horton said. “Now, I'm going to a stable, historic organization. I'm going to give it all I've got. I think it'll be good. .-.-. As a player, the best part of hockey is the playoffs. When you don't make them for seven years or whatever, that's too long. It can't happen. [In Boston], that doesn't happen. It's exciting for me to come and be a part of it.''

The Bruins are desperate for an offensive surge after scoring a league-low 196 goals last season. But the Panthers aren't exactly known for torching opposing goaltenders, either, scoring just six more goals than Boston did last season.

Horton has scored at least 20 goals in each of his past five seasons and is widely regarded as the team's most talented offensive player. His absence is going to make Florida's offense even less potent.

Wideman has scored 46 goals with 119 assists in 378 NHL games over the course of five seasons with Boston and St. Louis and is a good puck mover with a decent right-handed shot. But he's not going to replace Horton's numbers – nor is he expected to.

“You just have to just move on and get excited about the new guy,'' DeBoer said. “Dale has a blueprint on how to build this team. He's going piece by piece. We all see the weaknesses from goal scoring. The reality is, the group we had was not getting job done. Changes are expected.''

Soup3 Campbell thanked the Panthers for giving him a shot to become a regular NHL player. Campbell had a career year in 2008-09 when he scored 13 goals with 19 assists, but he struggled last season, managing just 17 points off two goals. Campbell is a restricted free agent.

“There's always mixed feelings in a trade and I had a great time in Florida, made some great friends,'' Campbell said. “But I'm excited to be part of the Boston organization. I haven't played in the NHL playoffs yet, so I'm excited to get that chance in Boston. I watched the playoffs pretty closely. It's not fun ending your season in April.''

Horton's desire for the game has come into question before, although DeBoer praised him for his attitude last season. “He had turned a corner,'' DeBoer said. With Horton unwilling to commit to the organization fully, Tallon decided to part ways. And adding another draft pick is just another chip for Tallon as he tries to rebuild a broken franchise.

“You have to start with goaltending and defense and work our way out,'' Tallon said. “We wanted to make a good deal, a fair deal. We wanted a first round pick, a right handed shot to help our power play. In the long run, want to build through the draft. There were a lot of [potential trade] partners, a lot of scenarios. This one made the most sense.''

Second Panther in the Hall of Fame: Congrats to Dino Ciccarelli

DinoLAS VEGAS -- The Panthers got their second member of the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday when Dino Ciccarelli was added to the Class of 2010.

Igor Larionov, who played just 26 games with the Cats in 2000-01, became the first player who wore the Leaping Cat to join the Hall. He entered in 2008.

Ciccarelli played a touch more in South Florida -- only not much. Ciccarelli played in 42 games over the course of two seasons, scoring 11 goals with 12 assists.

Joe Nieuwendyk, who, like Ciccarelli, retired after playing with the Panthers, didn't make it on his first go-round.

Nathan Horton Wanted Out of Florida, Gets Wish: Horton, Gregory Campbell Traded to Boston

Horton2 LAS VEGAS – The Florida Panthers made their first blockbuster moves under new general manager Dale Tallon on Tuesday as Nathan Horton was shipped to Boston in a package deal.

Horton, the third overall pick in the 2003, goes to Boston along with restricted free agent Gregory Campbell in exchange for the 15th pick in the upcoming draft, defenseman Dennis Wideman and Boston's third round pick in 2011.

“You have to start with goaltending and defense and work your way out,'' Tallon said. "We wanted to make a good deal, a fair deal. Getting a first round pick and getting a defenseman, this was a good match.

"We wanted a first round pick, a right handed shot to help our power play. In the long run, want to build through the draft. We had a lot of partners, lot of scenarios. This one made the most sense.''

Horton played on Florida's top line and scored 142 goals with 153 assists in 422 career games with the Panthers. He has three seasons remaining on his contract, one worth $4 million per season. Horton has a no-movement clause that kicks in July 1.

Wideman, 27, is signed through the 2011-12 season and makes $3.9 million per year. Wideman scored six goals for the Bruins last season and has 46 in his career.

"You have to just move on and get excited about the new guy,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. "Dale has a blueprint on how to build this team. He's going piece by piece. We all see the weaknesses from goal scoring. The reality is, the group we had not getting job done. Changes are expected.

"Dale has made it very clear and very clear to everyone he's spoken to that he knows what he wants the roster to look like. It's not going to happen overnight, but he's going to be bold and get there sooner than later. I'm going in with an open mind. At the very least, get a bunch of good young kids and get to work with them.''

Tallon said on a conference call that Horton was one of the players contacted who said he would rather play somewhere else. "We want players who want to play here,'' Tallon said.

Horton, according to Tallon, was frustrated with the Panthers organization and hoped Tallon could facilitate a deal. When Tallon told Horton of the move, "he thanked me.''

DeBoer said that Horton's attitude had taken a positive turn. "He was better for us,'' DeBoer said. DeBoer added that Horton expressed frustration with the Panthers during his exit interview after the season.

"In my exit meeting with Nathan, he had a lot of frustration just like a lot of guys,'' DeBoer said. "That's expected. My feedback to Nathan was I was glad he was frustrated. He was much better for us than he was the year before. He was going in the right direction.''

June 21, 2010

Schedule Stuff

Hey kids. Back from a semi-working vacation and ready to jump back into some hockey.

First off, the sked.

The Panthers will open in Edmonton before visiting Calgary and Vancouver. Then it's the home opener October 16 versus the Lightning.

The door on the plane is about to close so more later. Lots of rumors swirling about. We'll get to those soon enough.

Schedule Stuff