The countdown is on to the official start of Tuesday’s free agent signing period. And now the questions begin.
Will Mats Sundin move from Toronto? Where will Marian Hossa wind up? What about Brian Campbell
? Sean Avery? Wade Redden?
More importantly, will the Panthers jump into the fray or be happy watching from the sidelines?
“I don’t know at this point,” said GM Jacques Martin earlier in the week.
For the Panthers, they enter free agency in a different position than last year. On the first day of free agency last summer, the Panthers had needs and the room on their roster to sign Richard Zednik, Radek Dvorak and Brett McLean. But players like Michael Frolik and Shawn Matthias
weren’t knocking on the door to play in the NHL last season.
“It’s not like last year when I felt we had a need, a need as far as speed and character, and that’s why we went the free agency route and signed three players,” Martin said. “Part of that strategy was I didn’t feel we had many guys who were ready to step up on our team. As it turned out, Kamil Kreps did.
“But I think we have more talent coming in this year. When you look at the number of people we have, in order to get somebody I’d probably have to trade somebody to make room. But it all depends when we sit down and go over the list.”
Martin addressed the summer’s biggest concern of a puck-moving defenseman at the Entry Draft last weekend when acquiring Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton from Phoenix in exchange for Olli Jokinen.
But that hasn’t been Martin’s only move.
He also bought out the contract of Jozef Stumpel, signed Gregory Campbell to a two-year deal, and is close to signing restricted free agent Rostislav Olesz.
Oh, and he hired Peter DeBoer as the team’s head coach.
Martin said earlier in the week he has also had ongoing discussions representatives of Steve Montador, who is an unrestricted free agent come Tuesday along with defensemen Jassen Cullimore and Magnus Johansson.
“We’re talking with Montador and, actually, we’ve talked with all three of those individuals,” Martin said. “It depends on whether I can move some people. Montador is a different category because Steve can play both positions. He can play up front and he can play defense. We’ve had good conversations with his agent and we’re progressing. We hope to be able to resign him. Hopefully, we’ll come to an agreement. We want to be fair with him. It will depend on what his demands are.”