Six points out of a playoff spot and facing the prospect of missing the post-season for the ninth straight season, the Florida Panthers have made it crystal clear they intend to blow up their roster prior to the March 3 trade deadline.
It’s also clear that dealing Dominic Moore to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2011 second round pick isn’t the only move GM Randy Sexton will make. What isn’t clear is exactly who will be dealt. The Panthers cancelled practice Friday amid rumors of a flurry of deals.
Sexton recently said no player on the roster is safe. And he has the backing of his owners, who Friday morning published a letter to the team’s fans on its website. Panthers managing partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel said in the letter that a full rebuild of the team is in order.
“After consulting with general manager Randy Sexton and head coach Pete DeBoer, it is clear that our team, the way it is currently structured, is not equipped to meet the goals and objectives that we have set for ourselves, our fans and our partners…and based on those discussions and the inability to meet our goals, it is obvious that significant change is required.”
The letter goes on to basically say Sexton has been given the green light to reshape the team. But if the Panthers are looking to unload some of their more onerous contracts, it might not be that easy. Tomas Vokoun, Bryan McCabe and Stephen Weiss all have no-movement clauses in their contracts. Defenseman Keith Ballard can specify seven teams to which he would agree to be traded and David Booth has a limited no-trade clause. Nathan Horton, who is currently injured, has a no-trade clause that kicks in July 1.
But there is absolutely no doubt in the letter from Viner and Siegel that just tweaking the roster is not part of the plan. And if they do tear it down, Panthers fans can expect that streak of playoff years to get longer as they position themselves for the high draft picks that come with finishing near the bottom of the league.
“Unfortunately, these changes will not always be easy for our fans and supporters to accept or understand,” the letter said. “These changes might not be easy for our coaches, players and staff. But they are necessary. No small changes or quick fixes will do. But please note that these changes are part of an overall plan to make the best use of our current assets and set this franchise up to achieve the success we want as quickly as possible, and to maintain it.”
The letter then goes on to say, “Clearly, we are not satisfied with some of the players on this team that do not possess the characteristics we need to be successful.”
Sounds pretty clear, wouldn’t you say? And that means the Panthers will be interesting to watch – at least off the ice – in both the short and long term.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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