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The Last Word with Randy Sexton

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers assistant general manager Randy Sexton may be new to Cats fans, but he and head coach/ GM Jacques Martin have a longstanding friendship – one that both men hope will lead to great successes in South Florida. Sexton sat down with Panthers Insider to discuss his relationship with Martin, the future of the Panthers organization and more, in the Last Word.

Panthers Insider: First, why don’t you start off by explaining your role as the Assistant General Manager of the Florida Panthers?

Randy Sexton: It varies from franchise to franchise, but in this case, because Jacques (Martin) is the head coach, I’ll have a lot of responsibilities including amateur scouting, pro scouting, managing the hockey operations, budget responsibility, etc. I’ll be responsible for putting together the player plan, and negotiating the player contracts either for renewing existing players, signing juniors, college players, European free agents, and unrestricted free agents. So, I’m very fortunate because of our situation here I’ve been given quite a significant scope.”

PI: What was so appealing to you about coming down to the Panthers?

RS: There were several things that were appealing. Number one, the strong and committed ownership. Number two, strong management, and a real focus on the business side of the organization, which appealed to me. Number three, some excellent players, both young up–and-comers and solid leadership in veterans. And number four, a great market. My sense was that there was a significant market here that would support the Panthers provided that we put a winning and entertaining team on the ice. And lastly, I’ve known Jacques Martin for a long time. He’s a man of great integrity, great honesty, and a guy I felt I could compliment and support and work well with.”

PI: Can you compare some of the young players in Florida to some of the young players you helped draft and build up in Ottawa?

RS: Well most players are different, but if you look at the players, for instance when we drafted Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa, Nathan Horton reminds me of Alfie. A right shot obviously, a guy who’s got a knack to score, a player that is young at an early stage in the franchise, getting better. I look at Stephen Weiss and I compare him to a player like Antoine Vermette whose got great speed, is versatile, and competes every night. You know I look at Jay Bouwmeester and I think of Wade Redden. They’re not exactly the same, but they’re pillars of your organization that you expect to be in place for a long time to come, players that you can build around, players of good character that can help lead your franchise to the point where you can compete for the Stanley Cup.

PI: What is your relationship with Jacques Martin like?

RS: I’ve known Jacques for a long time in a variety of different scenarios. He’s been both a hockey school instructor and a hockey school colleague. He was a mentor at a time in my life when I was trying to decide what U.S. college I should go to play hockey at. We crossed paths briefly in Ottawa, not when he was coming in but when I was leaving and then again when I was rejoining the organization he was there. I would say in many ways Jacques and I are very similar. We have a similar approach to how to build a championship team. We have a similar philosophy in the type of organization we should build, yet there are lots of areas where we have healthy debate about and healthy disagreement. I say healthy because I believe it’s healthy. Far too often in business, and particularly the hockey business, people are yes men. You don’t improve as an organization, and you don’t improve as an individual if you always agree on everything together.

PI: What is the hardest part or the easiest part about completing a trade or signing a free agent?

RS: The hardest part is finding…well they’re really two different pieces, so let’s focus on a trade. The hardest part of a trade is finding a fit where the player or the asset that you’re acquiring makes you significantly better than the one that you’re giving up because both organizations want to accomplish that. So, if you think about it for a moment, there’s a lot of discussion, a lot of positioning around insuring that the asset you get back improves your organization while also insuring that the asset you give up helps your counterpart improve his, otherwise they’ll never do a deal with you again.

The hardest part of signing a free agent is determining what the value of that free agent is in the overall scope of things. I say value because to me it’s more than just about salary. It’s about the value they bring. That’s the most difficult part. The easiest part about doing a trade is announcing it, and the easiest part about signing a free agent is welcoming the free agent and his family to Florida.

PI: Do you foresee a busy summer for the Panthers in that respect?

RS: Absolutely! We are not going to rest until we’ve built this team and retooled this team. You know, we have seventeen players that require contracts this year. We have yet to determine if we’ll offer them all contracts, but we have seventeen players that will need contracts. We’ve got juniors who are graduating, we’ve got college players that are graduating that need to be re-signed, and we need to retool. So, we will be aggressively and actively pursuing the right kinds of free agents for the Panthers.
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