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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….

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.

Booth signs 6-year deal with Panthers, Andy goes to Colorado

July 1st, 2009 3 comments

David Booth has signed a 6-year contract with Florida worth $25.5 million. David Booth was the Cats’ top scorer last season and was a fans favorite at the Bank Atlantic Center.

His 60 points (31 goals) in 72 games last season was a career high and the 24-year old is expected to continue to progress and play in the US National Team in the upcoming Olympics. The news of Booth’s re-signing with the Panthers follows hot on the heels of the announcement that Radek Dvorak also signed a new deal with the club.

Meanwhile, speculation was rife during the early hours of the day that Craig Anderson was on the verge of signing with the Colorado Avalanche. It was a deal that made sense both for Colorado and Andy himself – as he would get a credible chance at the No.1 spot. And it has now been confirmed that Craig has signed a 2 year $ 3.6 million deal with Colorado….

 

More to follow….

Busy summer for the Cats

July 1st, 2009 Comments off

Having had a holiday from hockey I now feel ready to dig in to and continue this hockey blog about the Florida Panthers. It’s been a busy time for the Cats and the Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton. After Jacques Martin skipped the ship, to take up the Head Coaching job with the Habs, Sexton has been left with a real tangled mess to try to sort out. So let’s sum up and take a look at what moves he has done so far:

 

May 29th: Panthers sign G Alexander Sálak

Before Jacques signed off with the Panthers he made a move for, and signed, goalie prospect Alexander Sálak from TPS Turku of the Finnish League. The 22-year old goalie was signed to an entry level contract. The previously undrafted prospect played 53 games last season for TPS, posting a 2.40 GAA and .923 save percentage.

 

June: Panthers Development Camp in Toronto

One of Randy Sexton’s first priorities, when stepping in to Martin’s shoes, was to talk to the agents of restricted and unrestricted free agents Bouwmeester and Booth. While those attempts may have stolen most of the pundits’ attention, Randy also took time to visit the Panthers’ Development Camp – held in Toronto, Canada. He was quoted as expressing himself as very impressed with a trio of youngsters: Michal Repik, Keaton Ellerby and Michael Frolik. Whilst Frolik has already burst through the NHL scene, Sexton’s comments could also be seen as foreboding the imminent breakthrough of Repik and Ellerby on the big scene as well. Later Sexton also mentioned that D Jason Garrison could be ready to push for a place in the Panthers’ squad.

 

June 19th: Steven Reinprecht signed to 3-year deal

Randy Sexton’s first major move was for pending UFA Steven Reinprecht of the Phoenix Coyotes. The Panthers gave away the rights to Stefan Meyer, who was one of the leading scorers in Florida’s Rochester farm team last season, and in return received the exclusive negotiating rights to the veteran center Reinprecht. Steven was then quickly tied to a 3-year deal. The 33-year old will bring a wealth of Stanley Cup experience after having tasted glory with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. To the Panthers he also adds some competition for the center slots of the team. Described as a high character (was assistant captain in Phoenix) and hard working player, Sexton will be hoping that Steven can help the Cats win a few more face-offs while also injecting some speed into the team.

 

June 26th: NHL Entry Draft in Montreal; Day One

With the spectacle that is the Entry Draft underway in Montreal last Friday, people were expecting plenty of pending moves to be announced. However, with the notable exception of the blockbuster move of Chris Pronger to Philadelphia from Anaheim, it turned out to be a quiet occasion. Not even Jay Bouwmeester’s name was read by the commissioner – to most people’s surprise.

NY Islanders sealed John Tavares with their top pick and Tampa Bay sealed much needed blueline talent in the form of the giant puck moving Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman with the #2 pick. Matt Duchene went third; to his favorite team the Colorado Avalanche. These were of course the “Big Three” names of the draft and the selection of them went pretty much the way everyone had expected.

Expected to go higher in the draft was the talented puck moving Russian defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (Ranked #11). Many analysts projected him to go among the top ten and it must have come as quite a surprise to Randy Sexton that the talented defenseman was still around when it was time for the Panthers to pick at #14. Teams had been scared off Dmitry due to the “Russian factor”, that is the fear that a Russian player might leave for the KHL without compensation – now or in the future, but Sexton and chief scout Scott Luce knew a steal when they saw one and selected the defenseman with their first round pick (14th overall).

Scott’s verdict of Kulikov was summed up in four words: “Smart, driven, determined and passionate”. In addition to this, the player himself has been said his lifelong dream was to play in the NHL, and for a Russian to come to Florida to live and work – it surely is a dream move in more than one way. In fact, he might even be plying his trade here in South Florida this coming autumn already. Scott Luce at least seems to think he has that kind of immediate upside. At the very least he’ll be given a fair chance to make an immediate impact this coming season.

The last year Kulikov has been playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and won the Rookie of the Year Award after scoring 62 points (12 goals) for Drummondville. Drummondville’s assistant coach Danny Brooks said about Dmitry: “He could’ve made life easy and stayed in Yaroslavl Locomotiv and been a superstar in the KHL. But his dream is to play in the NHL and bring his family from Russia to North America….He’s a North American player who happens to have a Russian last name.”

 

June 27th: NHL Entry Draft in Montreal; Day Two

Jay Bouwmeester was finally put out of his misery here in South Florida and was traded to the Calgary Flames for their 3rd Round Pick in this year’s draft and the rights to pending UFA Jordan Leopold (D). Since then Bo has signed a 5-year deal with the Flames worth #6.68 million a year and he seems happy enough to be back in Alberta, Canada. The Cats has of yet, not been able to tie down Leopold to any deal, but are hoping Keith Ballard’s old collage buddy and golf partner – will want to partner Keith on the ice as well. We’ll see I guess…

As the actual day two of the draft got underway, the Panthers selected Drew Shore from the United States National Team Development Program. The 6-2, 200 pound center, was ranked at #28, and expected to go in the first round. But the Cats managed to nab him at #44 instead. The upside for Florida is that they get a solid, big center prospect; who also just happens to be American. This could be a very good steal by Sexton and Luce.

Thanks to the Bo trade the Cats also had a third round selection to make. With the #67 pick Florida grabbed C/RW Josh Birkholz from Fargo Force. The 6-1, 182 pound winger, is currently taking classes at the University of Minnesota and working out with Keith Ballard. It seems the Panthers may soon need to start paying Ballard some extra money for all the networking, on behalf of the organization, that he seems to be doing… Anyway, with Birkholz the Cats get another solid American prospect to swell to the current ranks.

Randy Sexton however felt the Panthers needed to further enlarge that contingent of prospects and moved to secure Los Angeles’ 4th (#107) and 5th (#138) Round selections in this year’s draft – in exchange for a 3rd Round pick in 2010.

With those picks the Panthers selected two more forwards; LW Garrett Wilson (#107), a gritty winger from Owen Sound, and C Wade Megan (#138), who’ll attend Boston University this spring – after graduating from a boarding school in Connecticut.

In between those picks, also in the fifth-round, the Cats selected C Corban Knight (#135), an offensive centerman that will attend the University of North Dakota this coming season – after having led all rookies in scoring in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this previous campaign.

Last, but not least, the Panthers selected 19-year old C Scott Timmins in the 6th Round (#165). Timmins is a player Coach Peter DeBoer knows well from his Kitchener days and scout Scott Luce believes the player is one to step up and turn pro immediately. Timmins is a good skater that won back-to-back Memorial Cups for Kitchener and Windsor.

 

June 30th: The Day before Free Agency

With the onset of free agency the Panthers organization, and Assistant (now inter-rim) GM Randy Sexton in particular, are by necessity going to be very active. It started on the 29th already as C Brett McLean was placed on unconditional waivers. Brett had a miserable season last year and his $1.7 million contract is now up in the air. Question is: If no one takes McLean on waivers; will his contract be bought out? In such case the Panthers would be on the hook for two-thirds of the remaining amount of the deal.

Janis Spukts, the Latvian center that played in Rochester last year, went public with his frustrations and has now been released to play in Europe instead. Other current Rochester players that were pending RFA’s and have not been handed any offers so far include: Drew Larman, Tanner Glass, Franklin MacDonald and David Shantz. Current Panthers player Steve Eminger, acquired on last trade deadline, hasn’t either been offered any qualifying deal.

Sexton however admits that he’d like to re-sign a couple of these players, including Glass and Eminger, but didn’t want to sign them before free agency. In Steve’s case it is due to the fact that he played so many games with the Lightning last season that his qualifying salary would be too juicy for Florida. Instead they are willing to take their chances with him as a pending free agent.

Two pending RFA players that have been offered qualifying offers are Panthers star David Booth and prospect David Brine. Booth will be up for a considerable pay-rise and has expressed his willingness to sign a long-term deal with the organization. And since the departure of Bouwmeester; he is now set to be the face of the franchise and a deal should be able to be sorted out before long.

Of the pending UFA’s Richard Zednik has already signed a deal that will take him to Russia’s KHL next season, whilst Nick Boynton is set to be released. Nick has a big contract and since his falling-out with Coach DeBoer has not been seen as a player with a future within the organization.

Of the other free agents that Sexton has expressed an interest in re-signing, we find veterans such as Karlis Skrastins, Ville Peltonen and Radek Dvorak. Whether or not this trio of players will be re-signed for next season – will largely come down to what their wage demands will be. It will perhaps also depend on whether the Panthers are able to compete for the signatures of any quality free agents available elsewhere. Likely is that one or two of these players will return to the fold next season; seeing as they all have been instrumental in Florida’s largely successful penalty-kill unit this previous campaign and seem settled in the area.

A couple of other players that will be UFA’s are Anthony Stewart, after he was not handed any qualifying offer and Craig Anderson. It seems unlikely either will re-sign with the Panthers, but it’s still a possibility for both. Anthony didn’t develop in the way the organization had hoped and may need to find pastures new for the coming campaign. In Craig’s case the opposite is true and he now feels ready for a starting gig in net and with Vokoun still with the Cats – he won’t get that here. If he fails to land that move however; then he may consider re-signing for Florida, but it seems very unlikely at the moment.

 

It will be an interesting next few days and much of the suspense will be to see what Randy Sexton and the Panthers do about their free agents and whether or not they can compete on the market for the plentiful plethora of skilled free agents available. It also remains to be seen if Randy is given the confidence to be take the reigns full time as GM – or if a new face will be brought in for the job. What happens over the next week is likely to settle both those questions…

Jacques Martin Moves to Montreal

June 1st, 2009 2 comments

Montreal Canadiens have been on the lookout for a new Head Coach for a while now, but that it would be Florida Panthers’ General Manager Jacques Martin that would come to occupy the position, undoubtedly would have came as a bolt out of the blue for many-a hockey fan.

Having signed a contract extension with the Panthers last may through the 2011-12 season, it would appear that the top Floridian brass, now have deemed Martin expendable and given the Habs a chance to pounce on the experienced coach. Reportedly he has signed a four year contract with his new club.

Jacques had, previous to his five years with the Panthers organization, also coached Ottawa and St. Louis. He will need to utilize all his accumulated wealth of experience when attempting to resurrect the crumbling fortunes of the centennial celebrators in Montreal.

For the Florida Panthers, Jacques exit will leave a considerable hole in the organization at a crucial point in the season. With the drafts around the corner and many players with contracts set to expire, this is possibly the worst possible time to lose your General Manager!

Florida’s owner/general partner Alan Cohen announced meanwhile that alternate governor and hall of famer William A. Torrey “will lead the search for the team’s next general manager and will work with Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton on all hockey operations as related to the draft, player trades and signings during this interim period”.

For many Panthers fans this latest development will likely upset more than one alarmbell; especially since Jacques Martin and Head Coach Peter DeBoer seemed to be on the cusp of a budding partnership, which almost brought fruition – in the form of a playoff spot – in the first attempt this bygone season.

Now Pete and the fans will be looking forward with a mixed bag of anxiety and expectations; at who will be appointed as the next Panthers’ GM.