We have now had a few days to digest what may have been the biggest trade in franchise history. This will be my final wrap-up on the deal. The real story is coming out and it's more apparent as the truth is told that Roberto Luongo's agent pushed the envelope too far and got too greedy. Gordon Gecko was wrong in the movie Wall Street...greed is not good!
If Roberto wanted to remain a Panther, as he claims, why not take $25M over 4 years or $30M over 5 years. Owner Alan Cohen and Coach Martin would have had absolutely no interest in trading Luongo this season. Trust me on that one. How Roberto became so paranoid about being dealt leads me to one conclusion. His agent became a deal breaker not a deal maker and planted that seed.
With no state tax Luongo's salary would have been the equivalent of $7M per season somewhere else. It was in this back and forth time that the more the team thought about it, the more the trade made sense regardless of the amount of money and "conditions" of the Luongo contract. Getting the three players they got, the Panthers are a better overall team now. Number one wingers and top four defensemen are hard to come by, as Panther fans know all too well. And in Alex Auld the Cats have a goalie who proved he could play well at this level and who knows what his ceiling is. In addition, a team sets a dangerous precedent if you allow a player to dictate player signings and coaching hirings as Luongo attempted to do. Players play, coaches coach and GM's manage. That is the way sports are set up and mixing those lines can be a dangerous proposition. So the trade is in the rear view mirror and my only concern now is how our 06-07 Panther team will shape up. This is the deepest the franchise has ever been up front...Just for fun how do these lines look to you?
Roberts, Jokinen, Bertuzzi...Best line in team history
Gelinas, Nieuwendyk, Horton...Nathan could break 35 goals this season
Olesz, Weiss, Stumpel...Best 3rd line we've seen in South Florida
Peltonen, Gratton, Kolnik
Don't forget Anthony Stewart and others who could return. When injuries hit this year the Panthers won't have to look to the waiver wire. The depth will be there already. This team is loaded on the right side and up the middle. Bertuzzi bumps every RW down and gives you a combo of him and Jokinen that could go to the All Star game.
Now the real key...the defense. The team needed two top three defensemen to pair with Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Van Ryn. Had Luongo been signed the salary cap would have only allowed the Panthers to get one of the two needed. In acquiring up big, strong Bryan Allen the Cats need one more defenseman to have a strong blue line.
Allen is exactly what Van Ryn needs with him and #26 should thrive in his role as he did early last season when paired with the defensive Branislav Mezei. The third pairing could be a combination of Mezei, Sean Hill, Alexei Semenov, Steve Montador or someone not currently on the roster.
The talent pool is deeper than last season when the Panthers had to go pick up Semenov, Montador, and Jamie Allison when injuries and poor performance hit. Now, who will be the D-man to round out the group? There are plenty available in free agency and with the trade the Cats can spend much of their money on one blue liner. The Luongo deal solidifies the right wing and second D pairing.
A Jovocop return to his roots here in South Florida is my # 1 choice. If it happens, the Panthers are playoff ready and once you get in...well, just ask Carolina, Edmonton, Anaheim, and Buffalo what can happen. It is a fun time to be a Panther fan with all that is going on. Free agency starts at midnight Friday. Did I mention Bertuzzi and Jovo are good buddies and have the same agent? Until next time...