It's trading deadline day and the Panthers are in the middle of the action. The Cats picked up projected top 4 defenseman Noah Welch from Pittsburgh for Gary Roberts. Welch is 24 years old and has played parts of the last 2 seasons with the Penguins. The Pens are a contender this year and wanted to get Roberts for a playoff run.
Florida, meanwhile, targeted Welch and the Pens, feeling they have shot this spring, parted with the former 2nd round pick. Welch is super smart, as he captained Harvard's hockey team all 4 years of his college career. He has good size and will be an integral part of the Cats defense for years to come. Adding Welch to Bouwmeester, Salei, Allen, Van Ryn and Mezei gives the Panthers 6 defensemen that will be on the team next year. Welch's value goes beyond his physical ability. He is the hard working, intelligent, team oriented type of player the Panthers are seeking. Adding people with these values is something that in the past may not have been the main focus. It is now. That is encouraging.
With the defense now set the focus is going to be on rebuilding up front. With expiring contracts of many forwards the opportunity will be there to reshape the group. At the end of the day the key will be the continued development of the Panthers' own players. Stephen Weiss
and Jay Bouwmeester both have career highs in goals. Nathan Horton is closing in on last year's goal total and has as many assists this season as he did in the last 2 years combined. These are the players that will lead the Panthers into the future. The additions the team makes must assist and compliment them. More as the day develops as players like Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Gratton are drawing interest from other teams.
And, oh yeah, there is a game tonight here in Washington. The Cats will have Ed Belfour in net for the 15th time in a row. The Panthers have won 3 in a row against the Caps and have averaged better than 6 goals per game.