It’s been a whirlwind.
In little more than a week, the Panthers have acquired a No. 1 goalie in Tomas Vokoun, selected the player they targeted at the NHL Entry Draft in Keaton Ellerby
, and signed longterm deals with winger Nathan Horton and defenseman Bryan Allen.
OK, everyone exhale.
Despite all the movement by Panther management, there’s still plenty to do and lots to accomplish in the next several days, according to GM and coach Jacques Martin.
“The next 10 days are really important for the organization,” Martin said as he prepared to head back to South Florida after spending several days in Columbus, OH., and the NHL Entry Draft.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” he added. “The acquisition of (Tomas) Vokoun and the signing of (Nathan) Horton is a good indication of the commitment from ownership and the organization of where we’re going. We’ve just got to continue to work hard.”
It begins Monday when the Panthers have to make qualifying offers to six players, including goalies Alex Auld and Craig Anderson and forward Stephen Weiss
. Then July 1 signals the beginning of free agency.
Martin would not comment on which players Monday would be qualified. He did say he would continue working on signing the team’s young core to longterm contracts.
“We’ll continue negotiations with Stephen Weiss
and other players,” he said. “In July, we’ll start negotiations with Jay Bouwmeester. But this week will be preparing for free agency and preparing for some trades.”
And what will be the Panthers be seeking through trades or free agency?
“We need to fill some forward positions and that’s what our focus will be,” Martin said. “We’re trying to fulfill different types of forward positions. Hopefully, we’ll get one (forward) with more grittiness, a physical presence, and at the same time keeping in mind speed is an element that we’d like to add to our team. Maybe we’ll try to get a more skilled forward as well.”
Martin said he was pleased with the job of his scouts at the Entry Draft. With the exception of the Vokoun trade, however, there was very little player movement.
“I think teams are looking at their rosters with free agency coming and just holding off,” Martin said.