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The Florida Panthers World Tour – Coming to a Town near You

October 9th, 2009 2 comments

Yes, the Panthers have been around. Christopher Columbus would have been proud and impressed.

Winger David Booth recently designed a T-shirt that has been circling the locker room; to commemorate a flying preseason for the Cats.

It features a rock ’n’ roll style Panther on the front. And on the back side can be read: “Florida Panthers – World Tour 2009”.

Thereafter follows a list of dates and “gigs” that many an aspiring rock band might drool jealously upon:

9-12 Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia
9-15 Halifax, Nova Scotia
9-16 Ottawa, Ontario
9-17 Montreal, Quebec
9-18 Edmonton, Alberta
9-20 Calgary Alberta
9-22 Dallas, Texas
9-23 Sunrise, Florida
9-30 Tampere, Finland
9-30 Helsinki, Finland
10-2 Helsinki, Finland
10-3 Helsinki, Finland

Since then three more gigs have been added to the schedule due to popular demand:

10-9 Raleigh, North Carolina
10-10 Sunrise, Florida
10-12 Tampa, Florida

Suiting enough, this mini-tour ends on Columbus Day: Here’s to the memory of you Christopher and your stunning feat of mal-navigation!

 

Vokoun the Workhorse

 

With the Finnish excursion now firmly put to the books, the Panthers need to find their feet quickly. They have 3 games in 4 days to look forward to.

Goalie Tomas Vokoun in particular will have his stamina and resiliency tested as he looks to be playing one consecutive game after another.

With recently acquired back-up goalie Scott Clemmensen on leave, due to family matters, youngster Alexander Salak will be with on this tour as well. When Scott will return is still unknown and head coach Peter DeBoer has already said that Vokoun will be playing in these games whether Clemmensen returns or not.

Tomas Vokoun is of course no stranger to playing hefty minutes. He has always done so in the past and there is no use in confusing him now. Last campaign he also played in the opening five games of the season.

Vokoun strikes me as the kind of goalie that produces his best when he gets a lot of action. He doesn’t like standing or sitting around idly. The more the merrier for Tomas it seems and he’s getting his Christmas wishes early this year.

 

Some Early Question Marks

 

Otherwise the lineup looks relatively intact from Helsinki.

Center Steven Reinprecht got a shot off the skate in practice the other day, but X-rays showed no sign of any fracture. He will thus play tonight.

Whether or not another centerman, new signing Dominic Moore, will feature in any of these games is still unknown. The reason behind his delay in linking up with the team is VISA issues. As soon as they are resolved he’ll join and likely be thrown straight in to the fray by Coach DeBoer.

If Moore does arrive before tonight’s game or any of the other two, it will likely mean that defenseman Ville Koistinen won’t be utilized as a makeshift forward on the fourth line. If he’ll return to the blueline or be made to sit out the game(s) is not yet clear.

It would likely be either Koistinen or rookie Dmitry Kulikov that would be made redundant for the time being when Dominic joins the lineup. But knowing DeBoer he’ll likely be shuffling things around as soon as results aren’t forthcoming; so it may be a very brief spell on the sidelines in that case.

It is also worth noting that the Panthers have announced the signing of 23 year old right winger Victor Oreskovich on a two-way deal.

Oreskovich is a player that Peter DeBoer knows well from the juniors and he’ll be assigned to the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Victor was originally a third round draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche. This offseason he attended Florida’s training camp and also featured in four preseason games.

 

Boxed In at Carolina

 

Looking closer at that game in Carolina versus the Hurricanes it would seem that the Panthers are in for a tough matchup. The Cats may have won their last game in Raleigh 5-0, but that was in all honesty before the Canes got together as a team and started to click last campaign.

It is likely to be a much tighter affair this time around.

During the week the Panthers have been working hard on special teams and coverage assignments in the defensive zone. Both of which were Achilles heels in the opening head-to-head with Chicago. With a spanking new defensive corps these issues are predictable to occur in the early going.

The best way to minimize the threat of opposing man-advantages however is, as it always has been, to stay out of the box.

Carolina have a good enough team to punish Florida if the Cats again can’t play fair; as the Blackhawks did in game two.

And knowing your defensive assignments, well, that’s just basic hockey ABC. Give it a few games and some practice and that should not need to be a continued issue.

The Hurricanes meanwhile have also started the new season in a wobbly fashion: Losing 0-2 and 2-7 to the Flyers and Bruins respectively. They then rallied to trump the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 2-1 shootout victory on Tuesday.

Both teams should be rested and well prepared for this game, having not played in the last 3 and 6 days respectively. That does however also make the game a highly unpredictable one. It’s hard to see which team will show up with the greater hunger and will to win.

I think this will be a tense game that will go down to the buzzer.

With both teams likely to have stressed defense in practice, due to both having a hard time to keep opposing forwards out of their zone, I’m sure that emphasis will shine through in the game as well.

However, with Carolina having a record of 15-2-0 at home against Florida since Feb. 16, 2004; they must be seen as the favorites to clinch the points in the end analysis.

 

Selling Out

 

The next day the Panthers go home to play their first home game. Outside of Finland that is…

The New Jersey Devils continue their three game road trip and make a visit. Tickets have been selling fast and the Bank Atlantic Center is expected to be a complete sellout.

After having lost their initial two home games of the season, the Devils travelled to Tampa and made an astonishing last second push in regulation to tie the game and eventually win the contest. Again the Lightning lost in a shootout.

It would seem the shootout curse has now switched over to Florida’s west coast. Good riddance!

The New Jersey Devils is as always a tricky customer. With Martin Brodeur between the pipes you can never be assured to score. The Panthers players are also likely to arrive with tired legs in this contest; after having played in North Carolina the previous evening.

Nonetheless, with the B.A.C. packed with hopeful fans there can be no excuses.

The Cats need to display some sharp claws and dig deep for a memorable performance. With the fragile fanbase that exists here; every big crowd turnout is a new chance to redeem the club and gain some new followers in the process.

The importance of this game for Florida can hence not be stressed enough.

 

“Tampa Bay Lightning is a Box of Chocolates; you never know what you’ll get”

 

I don’t think it was Columbus that uttered those words, but it is to him we now return.

For the Panthers he’ll make an appearance in Tampa Bay this coming Monday, on Columbus Day. It will be a symbolic way to end the long preseason tour and early campaign as the Panthers thereafter get some rest (until next Friday’s game versus the Flyers) and then return to the regular season grind.

With five regular games under the belt we should be in a much better position to judge what this year’s reincarnation of the Cats hold in store.

Before we come to that point however we have the Floridian derby against the Lightning, a game that will be contested by fierce cross state rivals. Although prior to the game against the Panthers, the Bolts have a chance to redeem their early season woes against Carolina on Saturday.

So far, after three games, it is fair to say that the Tampa Bay Lightning have not got off to the start they were hoping for.

Much was expected of Tampa Bay for this season in terms of overall on-ice improvement. This has yet to come to fruition and they remain winless to this point.

To me it seems that the Bolts last season put all their efforts into their forward compartment; with the end result of the team becoming unbalanced. This summer therefore, the management focused solely of the upgrade of the defensive corps.

However, the rising evidence seems to suggest this has only led to a new imbalance; with 9 defenders battling for icetime.

It is hard to understand this logic. But we all know the Tampa Bay Lightning organization work in strange ways. Who am I to question their reasoning?

I’m probably too conservative. I like the idea of balancing the team, whilst at the same time I detest the idea of letting players sit on the bench rolling their thumbs without playing any competitive games. But hey, I’m sure they know what they are doing… Right?

Anyway, the Panthers often find the Bolts to be a tricky opponent to unlock. And it being a derby game; one never knows how things will unfold.

This could go either way.

Nonetheless, I do dare wager that the Lightning will struggle this season if they do not address the glaring issue of imbalance. A couple of trades are likely necessary to rectify the problem: The sooner the better for the team and its fans in western Florida.

As for the Panthers, we will not get anything for free this season. Yet, the team is being slowly molded into Coach Peter DeBoer’s own image. And if the players can display his level of competitiveness, never-say-die attitude and directness, we should be fine.

It is a long road to travel however, and while the Florida Panthers players may feel like they’ve already circumvented the Earth a couple of times; truth is that the real journey starts today…

Tender Goalie Issues

October 6th, 2009 2 comments

The season may only have begun, but that doesn’t mean players are immune from criticism in the early going. Always in the line of fire are the goaltenders; where one bad game can be enough to have the fans clambering all over their back. Ask Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala – for whom it only took four periods before patience ran thin.

The notoriously fickle fans in Toronto haven’t exactly been enamored with the Finns early displays and, despite Vesa still recovering from hip and groin surgery in the off-season, he has found little sympathy from the many vociferous hockey fanatics north of the border. With promising NHL rookie Jonas Gustavsson waiting in the wings, the call has rung out for the Swedish ‘Monster’ to be the No.1 – in Toskala’s place.

In the 6-4 defeat against the Caps, the Finn got the hook in favor of the Swede after the first period and now Head Coach Ron Wilson has decided to go with Gustavsson in-between the sticks in tonight’s contest from the getgo – against their rivals the Ottawa Senators. This despite Wilson sticking up for his current No.1 by stating that the defense had not helped the goalie with their poor defensive display, in the two opening defeats of the season.

Jonas has a lot of hype to live up to, as he was the most coveted netminder in the off-season, with several teams chasing his signature, before settling for Maple Land as his first NHL destination.

Having helped his former club Färjestad to the Swedish championship last season, he earned the nickname ‘the Monster’ in the process. That and the usual unrealistic hopes of the Toronto fans, leaves Gustavsson with a very big set of skates to fill tonight.

 

Keeping it in the Family

Due to family business, of an unknown sort, Panthers back-up goalie Scott Clemmensen has returned to his family home in Iowa. Whether he’ll be back in time for the next game against the Carolina Hurricanes is at this time not known. What is for certain is that the Cats management is not taking any chances and has recalled Alexander Salak from Rochester; after he was sent there just the other day.

 

One goaltender that has hit the new season running is last season’s Florida back-up goaltender Craig Anderson, nowadays plying his trade in Colorado as their No.1. In his first two contests he saved 73 of 74 shots as the Avs started the season on two winning feet. For his efforts Andy was awarded the opening week’s second star.

Maybe the Panthers will be left to rue his departure, if he can keep that kind of form going…

Summer Lull

August 14th, 2009 Comments off

The hockey community seems to have gone in to its customary summer hibernation and there is precious little to report. Apart, that is, from the rather tedious Phoenix Coyotes and its bankruptcy hearing – and of course the breif excursion in to crime by young Chicago Blackhawks sniper Patrick Kane. The latter may possibly even have been overblown by a hockey media in desperate search of headlines.

All this leaves us with is a couple of minor moves of Panthers interest and one non-mover previously linked with the Cats, a new Cap coach, and of course the Canes – blowing some wind

To begin with former Florida goaltender Ed Belfour was hired by the St. Louis Blues organization to work as a goalie consultant in their AHL affiliate Peoria Rivermen. After Tomas Vokoun was brought in to the Panthers in the summer of 2007, Belfour was deemed expendable and he then spent the following season in Sweden, playing for the second tier team Leksand Stars. Like with all former Cats I wish him well in Peoria and hope goalie coaching will be something he enjoys. Being one of the goalies with most wins in the NHL certainly gives him the required experience for the job.

On a sidenote the Washington Capitals also turned to a former goalie legend and offered Arthurs Irbe the goalie coach position with the organization. The Caps could surely do with a good goalie coach if they are ever to progress as far in the playoffs as Tsar Alex’s ego undoubtedly expects them to be. However, a coach can only do so much, and Washington needs a goaltender that can match their ambition with the required talents. Whether Semen Varlamov has what it takes, remains yet to be seen.

Over on the West Coast of Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightning has been busy as usual and also in the habitual ownership turmoil. Amidst all this GM Brian Lawton is attempting to put together a decent team by getting rid of some key players. Typical Lightning logic the skeptic may say. Former Cat Vaclav Prospal was unceremoniously bought out of his massive three year remaining contract and dumped upon the free agent market. This whilst Ville Peltonen’s former tormenter Evgeny Artuykhin was traded to Ducks yesterday, in another cost-cutting measure. Undoubtedly the giant Russian will fit like, well, a duck in water with Anaheim’s tough-guy image.

Apparently all these salary dumps out of the blue are leading somewhere. The Tampa Bay Lightning is, according to most trade rumors, first in line to sign star winger Alex Tanguay. The Panthers had previously been in that position, but contrary to some Internet reports – no deal was ever agreed. Tanguay remains a free agent, and like I stated here when the reports were coming in hot and heavy, Alex will be in no rush to sign a deal. He’ll be anxious to make sure the pay-cut he is likely forced to take – won’t be all too sizeable. The longer he waits – the more likely someone is to get desperate. Something which wouldn’t wholly be out of character with the Bolts.

And on the low scale of money-grabbing schemes we find, not too sursprisingly, the Carolina Hurricanes; suing a local hip-hop artist for violating the Hurricanes’ trademark. Apparently they liked the song initially and had no problem playing it in the arena, but when it appeared the artist might get some money from the song – the Canes duly sued him. Apparently they want their share of the booty too…

Panthers give up on Tanguay?

July 23rd, 2009 Comments off

The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is reporting that the Florida Panthers are giving up on signing star winger Alex Tanguay. The paper claims that Canadian press now believe it’s a race between the Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning to sign the experienced forward.

I have been unable to either confirm or reject these latest rumors that the Cats have given up on Tanguay. The interest of Tampa Bay Lightning and Phoenix Coyotes however has been widely reported. The deal between those two teams, which brought Radim Vrbata to Phoenix for Fedoruk and Hale, does give our western neighbors the necessary cap space to pursue a player of Tanguay’s caliber.

It would no doubt be a real blow to Panthers fans if these rumors came true – and Alex Tanguay were to join Tampa Bay instead of us. Take this latest information for what it is though, speculation, but as soon as anything more substantial comes along I’ll let you know…

 

On a sidenote, the same paper – this time using Russian sources, claims that winger Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers; is going to sign a new multi-year contract. The deal, if these sources are correct, will give him the maximum amount possible (20% of the teams total wages against the cap) and make him the best paid player in the NHL, earning an estimated $11.36 million a year!

Not bad for a player plying his trade on one of the worst teams in the league…

New Cats had other options – Glass to Vancouver

July 22nd, 2009 Comments off

LW Tanner Glass signed today with the Vancouver Canucks, together with two other players. Glass played a few games with the Florida Panthers over the last two seasons, but saw most action with the farm affiliate in Rochester.

Indeed, the 25-year old spent most the 2008-09 season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, playing 44 games and recording four goals, nine assists and 100 penalty minutes. The six-foot, 196-pound Regina, Saskatchewan native played three games with the Panthers, collecting seven penalty minutes. He was originally drafted by the Florida Panthers with their 265th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Although the details are not clear, it is likely to be a two-way contract for the power-forward. Whilst inter-rim GM Randy Sexton earlier said to be interested in re-signing Glass, it is possible the signings of several free agent forwards already, may have crowded him out of a place with the organization. Hopefully the gritty winger will be given a chance with the Canucks, seeing as he’s a very likeable fella that we wish all the best in his future endeavors.

Another former Panther, 33-year old D Rhett Warrener, is currently out of work and has so far not been offered any new deal with an NHL team. He spent last season with the Calgary Flames and played in only 31 games for the Alberta club.

The lack of interest has surprised Rhett: "You’re kind of out there floating around. There’s nothing concrete about anything. Spinning your tires a little bit, I guess you could say".

If he does not find a new club this off-season, he may be ready to end his career, although his priority is still to find a new team in the NHL: "Because I’m a dumb athlete I don’t know if I’d ever rule out playing," he said to the Calgary Herald. "I imagine if someone came and offered me a contract, I’d have to consider it."

 

Elsewhere, it seems that a couple of the free agent signings by the Panthers were not made without plenty of competition from other teams…

Defenseman Jordan Leopold, who the Panthers gained the rights to negotiate with at the draft from Calgary – but was unable to sign before free agency opened, had at least one other option that is likely to have been hard to turn down for him. The former Minnesota University blueliner had an offer on the table from the Minnesota Wild, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It was a serious attempt to get the player to join the organization, but in the end Leopold opted instead to join the Cats on a one-year deal.

So, why did Jordan reject Wild for the Panthers?

Because apparently Florida have offered him a greater role in their team for this upcoming season, than Minnesota were willing to do, and so Leopold chose greater ice-time above the overtures from the Wild.

Canadian center Jamie Johnson meanwhile, had already signed for another team – when the Panthers made their interest in him known. Having spent last season with TPS Åbo, of Finland, he then signed a deal with Swedish second tier side Leksand. He was signed as their new star centerman, but when the Cats made their interest known he was able to leave months before even playing a game for his new side. This because in his contract with Leksand he had the option of signing with an NHL club before the 15th of July.

The 27-year old subsequently triggered his get-out clause and signed a one-year deal with the Panthers; although it remains unlikely he’ll be seeing too much action in Florida. More than likely he’s been signed to play with the Rochester Americans affiliate – in the AHL instead…

Panthers have Dollars, but not Tanguay, Murphs a Devil

July 17th, 2009 Comments off

Despite rumors to the opposite effect, circulating the Internet yesterday, star winger Alex Tanguay has not signed with the Panthers. It doesn’t mean he won’t, but like I reported here a few days ago; Alex will likely take his time to review several offers from a plethora of interested teams and then make an informed decision.

After declining numbers in recent years, mainly due to injury woes, he will need to jump start his career with his next team. That makes his decision an important one, not just for his future career, but also, it could mean he’d be willing to spurn some dollar signs in return for a perfect fit.

Whether or not the Florida Panthers could provide that remains uncertain. Certainly they are one of the interested parties, and inter-rim GM Randy Sexton also states that the club indeed have money to spend on a good player/addition to the squad (such as Tanguay, we would presume): “We’ve got dollars,” Sexton said on the Panthers website. “We don’t have unlimited dollars. I don’t think anyone does these days…There’s dollars available if we need them.”

He further goes on to say: “We’re having ongoing discussions with agents and players. We’re being selective to find the right fit to fill the right need at the right price. We the like the chemistry of our team and have to be sensitive to that. I think there’s going to be a fairly good-sized pool of people still around. We also want to provide a spot for some of our younger players.”

One can gather from this statement that the Cats indeed aren’t finished in the marketplace, and there are several good signings to be made (check out this list from the NHL website to see which ones are yet to find a new home), but it is likely the Panthers may only make one/two at most/ additions to the projected roster. The other signings are likely to be aimed at the Rochester Americans; who need an overhaul after last season’s dreadful performance in the AHL.

 

Meanwhile, one Eastern Conference team that was active today was the New Jersey Devils. They snapped up former Panther Cory Murphy on a 2-year, two-way contract. The details have not been released, but his salary will obviously depend on whether he can make the Devils team or if he’ll spend the season in the AHL. Murphy is a skillful and quick, yet small blueliner that can contribute on the power-play. He was picked up by the Tampa Bay Lightning on re-entry waivers last season, as the Panthers had plenty of depth in defense and didn’t need his services.

I always felt it was a bad deal for the Cats to lose him to the Bolts on re-entry waivers (hence being stuck with half his wages) and a slap in the face for the Amerks – who could have needed his experience on that level. However, it was a chance for Murph to re-ignite his career in the NHL. And now the Devils, who are well known to pick up fringe players and then mold them in to stars, have reached out toward him and wish him the best in Jersey.

Hopefully the Panthers won’t be left to rue this move in the future. We’ll see I guess….

Blackhawks to Bust or Boom? – Dale Tallon Removed as GM

July 14th, 2009 Comments off

According to ESPN and TFP, the Chicago Blackhawks have fired General Manager Dale Tallon. A statement will be made later today to announce the fact, together with the promotion of Assistant GM Stan Bowman as the new GM.

Update! It is now being reported that Tallon has been reassigned to be a senior advisory of hockey operations instead.

Dale Tallon was appointed General Manager on the 21st of June 2005 and oversaw the drafting of young talents such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, whilst also making expensive plunges on the free agent market; acquiring players such as Nicholai Khabibulin, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet.

He was also the one responsible for steering the Blackhawks away from the doldrums. When he arrived in town, Chicago only managed 65 points over the course of his first season in charge, whilst in his last campaign, the club totaled 104. Moreover, the team progressed as far as to the Western Conference finals; where the Hawks were finally stopped by rivals Detroit.

Tallon was then surrounded in controversy this summer, when making the high profile signing of Martin Havlat from Detroit and tying the star winger to a massive 12-year contract. Whilst this would normally be a reason for celebrations, Dale received criticism for placing the clubs future in jeopardy. The reason being that star players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are all to become restricted free agents next summer – and question is if the Hawks will have the Cap space to resign them all. That is, unless someone would be willing to take on the massive contracts of Cristobal Huet or Brian Campbell, which many analysts seriously question.

A second reason for controversy was the failure to notify pending restricted free agents of qualifying offers before the deadline. Dale sent the offers out in mail, which however is not the proper way to handle affairs. The players association filed grievances against the club, but everything was finally resolved as the Blackhawks re-signed all the players in question; including Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker.

According to TFP sources, this embarrassment was the "clinching blow". ESPN meanwhile doesn’t agree: "It may have had little to do with Tallon’s firing" they state and think an ulterior motive was to rid the franchise of a GM that was appointed prior to the current President John McDonough; and Dale simply wasn’t part of the plans for the revamped organization. If this latter explanation holds up, it is possible that Dale Tallons number has been up for some while and the saga of failing to notifying agents simply was the excuse to fire/reassign him from the GM position.

Last summer’s appointment of legendary coach Scotty Bowman, certainly was a sign of new things to come and speculation was rife back then that Dale would soon be shown the door, so that Scotty’s son, and long-time assistant GM – Stan Bowman, could take over the reins. It seems that today that scenario has finally come to fruition.

Stan Bowman has for the last 10 years been at the club as an Assistant GM and has primarily handled contract negotiations, collective bargaining agreement issues and free agency. Considering these are the areas of contention, currently within the franchise and in the media, questions must be raised as to the wisdom of this selection.

Certainly, Stan will have his hands full this coming season – one that could shape the long-time future and stability of the club. Success or failure – bust or boom – we shall soon see….

Florida in Tanguay Sweepstakes; Stewart and Welch joins Atlanta

July 13th, 2009 2 comments

The Florida Panthers are one of 5-6 teams involved in talks with F Alex Tanguay‘s agent according to several sources. It has become apparent that the Cats have an interest in the former Montreal winger and his potential signing could go some way in appeasing fans that so far have been discouraged by the lack of substantial action from the franchise on the free agent market.

It is no secret that the Panthers need offensive reinforcements and Tanguay could become a great addition to the team and take some weight off the shoulders of young wingers such as Horton, Frolik, Olesz and Booth to produce the offensive goods. Alex is an experienced NHL player that has produced very high numbers in the past, and if injury free, there is no reason to believe he couldn’t do it again.

Last season Tanguay played 50 games for the Habs, scoring 16 goals and assisting on 25 other. His cap hit for last season was $5.25 million, but it is expected that he will be forced to take a substantial pay cut this coming season. However, considering he is one of the best names still left on the market and has plenty of suitors – he should still be in a position to get a good deal.

In addition to the Florida Panthers, it is rumored that the Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders are all interested and have contacted Tanguay’s agent, Bob Sauve.

It is expected however, that Alex will take his time before making up his mind, so don’t expect any immediate movement on this front. It also remains uncertain how much muscle the Florida Panthers really have to flex cash-wise, considering the questions of its ownership and possible take-over.

 

Two players that played for the Cats last season: RW Anthony Stewart and D Noah Welch have moved out of Florida state line and joined the Atlanta Thrashers. Neither player was able to make an impression during the previous campaign, but will hope to get a fresh start in Atlanta instead.

Both players have potential, but question is if they can yet transform that into proven skill and do what it takes on a consistent basis as well. Either way, we wish them the best and hope they can get their careers onto the NHL track. Both are terrific personalities that will be missed in Florida.

Alley Cats add Coach and Lower Prices, while ex-Cats move on

July 9th, 2009 1 comment

The Florida Panthers organisation has announced dropped prices in many sections, whilst keeping concession prices level with last year. Considering the low profile the club has been keeping in the marketplace though, question is if this price-drop is enough to convince many fans to return and purchase new season tickets. There is a real concearn that the team will not be competetive next season amongst many Panthers faithful – and as was expressed here in a previous article.

In addition the Miami Herald has reported that the Florida Panthers have found a new strength and conditioning coach to replace "Andy O’Brien, who resigned earlier this summer to become the director of high performance at the Edge School in Calgary, Alberta". Craig Slaunwhite will now take the position and he joins from Toronto where he worked as a personal trainer; and among his clients list a few members of the Panthers.

Meanwhile, a couple of former Cats have been on the move to pastures new of late. Goalie Alex Auld was traded from the Senators to the Dallas Stars in return for a 6th round pick in the 2010 draft. The Stars were in need of a back-up goalie to Marty Turko. With the Senators last season, Alex Auld managed a 16-18-1 record with a .911 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA. He has an overall career record of 74-75-25, a .905 save percentage and a 2.76 goals-against average.

Nick Boynton has also found a new club. The Fourth Period are reporting on Twitter that his agent confirmed that Nick has signed a 1 year $1.5 million deal with Anaheim Ducks; who have been in search of defensive reinforcements since losing Beauchemin and Pronger this off-season.

This deal also follows hot in the heels of the signing of veteran Finnish ace Saku Koivu yesterday and should go some way in re-building the Ducks for this up-coming campaign. There has not been any official confirmation as of yet, but is expected to come soon…. Update! It is now official….

Inter-rim GM Randy Sexton has said that F Ville Peltonen is likely to return to Europe. Rumors have him signing for a team in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, it is possible that the Panthers are trying to sign former Montreal F Alex Tanguay. Sexton wouldn’t be drawn on which players he’s looking to add, but it would seem like one of the few remaining top players in the market may have a South Floridian offer to consider – at least if one is to believe some of the rumors out there. This could actually be a very interesting signing for the Cats if it ever materialises… fingers crossed!

Cats add Taffe – Habs Groulx

July 6th, 2009 1 comment

Center Jeff Taffe has signed a 2-year deal with the Florida Panthers. The former Penguin will add depth to the threadbare forward compartment and will compete for a space on the roster at training camp. Whether or not he’s seen as a genuine Panthers player, or is more brought in to help the ailing Rochester Americans affiliate in the AHL, remains to be seen. The Minnesota native is 28 year of age and played together with Keith Ballard and Jordan Leopold at the University of Minnesota. Last year he featured in eight games for the Stanley Cup champions from Pittsburgh.

It makes you wonder if Keith Ballard has been given new assignments doesn’t it? Is he to be the new Assistant GM if Randy Sexton get’s the nod as General Manager? ;)

 

In other news, former Panthers goaltender coach Pierre Groulx has been swooped up by the Canadiens. With Jacques Martin already in place as Montreal Head Coach, this move hardly comes as a surprise. It seems Florida didn’t see it as necessary to have a full time goaltending coach this season (another cost reducing move?) and so subsequently didn’t renew Groulx’s contract with the club at the end of last season. In addition to Pierre, the Cats also lost former strength and conditioning coach Andy O’Brien last month – as he took up a position outside of the NHL.