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Panthers Season Preview

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Analysis by Phil Coffey for

Well, that was certainly a quiet, uneventful summer for the Florida Panthers, wasn't it?

Yikes! Not only were the Panthers involved in a good, old-fashioned blockbuster trade, sending goalie Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks for power forward Todd Bertuzzi, but on the eve of training camp there was a changing of the guard in the front office, with Mike Keenan leaving his general manager's post and head coach Jacques Martin adding the GM's title to his resume.

Finishing out of the playoffs for the fifth-straight season despite a winning record, Panthers management realized changes were necessary and became even more urgent when Luongo opted against signing a long-term contract with the club, opening up the possibility of the goalie departing as a free agent.

The Panthers received goalie Alex Auld in the deal for Luongo and then signed veteran Ed Belfour, giving the Panthers an entirely new look in goal.

There were changes on defense too, as Sean Hill signed with the Islanders and Lukas Krajicek went to the Canucks in the blockbuster. So, the Panthers signed a veteran defenseman of their own in Ruslan Salei, who had played his entire career with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Panthers hope Bertuzzi will juice up the offense in a big way. Only team captain Olli Jokinen surpassed 60 total points last season, so there is a significant need to add more goals to the ledger if the Panthers are to make a big enough move up the standings to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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