Florida Panthers Lose, Win at NHL Draft Lottery

By Bill Whitehead

It’s only been about 30 minutes since the NHL Draft Lottery was conducted, and I’ve got to admit one thing: I’m perfectly fine with the outcome, but only if the Florida Panthers stay where they are, which is picking No. 2 in the June 30 draft in Newark.

On Monday afternoon, Panther Parkway writer David Lasseter, a hockey enthusiast and avid music lover like myself, agreed with me that losing the draft lottery might not be the worst thing to happen to the Cats. A boatload of pressure comes along with picking No. 1 overall — Edmonton should be immune to that kind of stage fright by now — and one person close to the Panthers suggested to me that Florida might not have kept the top pick overall anyway. This source felt the Cats might succumb to the pressure and criticism and trade away the No. 1 selection.

News stories surfaced regarding that scenario.

A story in the Edmonton Journal stated new Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would try to make a splash by sending his club’s pick at No. 7, along with last year’s first selection Nail Yakupov, to the Panthers for their first choice. The speedy, flamboyant Yakupov was an interesting mention and might bring the kind of confident energy that borders on showboating to the Cats, but one soon wondered if former top selections Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be available in place of the 19-year-old Yakupov. Jordan Eberle, who has blossomed, was likely untouchable.

Well, forget that idea…I think.

In the moments leading up to the lottery, I tweeted the following:

tweet

Truly, I don’t think the league did anything nefarious in its lottery or rigged it against Florida, but it is ironic that the one team that had connections to consensus top pick Seth Jones is the kid’s hometown club, the Colorado Avalanche, who won the right to select him. Jones is viewed as a can’t-miss defenseman: gritty, athletic, offensive-minded, and ready to play in the NHL in October.

But is Jones, the son of former NBAer Popeye Jones, what the Cats need right now?

Florida has been missing an electrifying superstar scorer since Pavel Bure. Forwards Nathan MacKinnon (below, left) and Jonathan Drouin (right), likely the second and third picks in some order after Jones, are elite offensive players who could make an impact in Sunrise right away.

NateMacKDrouin

Center MacKinnon (5-11, 179) has blazing speed that is top shelf, plus he’s a creative playmaker who can also score. He’s not Steven Stamkos — let’s get that straight right away — but he’s been mentioned comparatively in the same sentence as Stammer by some. Call him Stammeresque in places, which led to 103 points in 56 games this season for Halifax. He also centered a line for Canada in the World Junior Championships in Russia last December. His left winger? A young man named Jonathan Huberdeau.

Left winger Drouin  is a bigger version of Martin St. Louis, possessing incredible creativity and a sick pair of hands. Drouin played on a line with MacKinnon at Halifax this year and put up ridiculous numbers (133 points in 61 games) with MacKinnon centering him. Florida GM Dale Tallon was also recently in Halifax — maybe doing his homework or maybe just taking in some hockey that featured two prized prospects.

So it comes down to this: Does Florida want a No. 1 center who can create and get the most out of Huberdeau for the next 10 years or do they want another skillful French-Canadian winger who, along with Huberdeau, could baffle defensemen and embarrass goalies for a decade? Or does Florida trade out of that spot with someone who wants one of the two Halifax forwards, handing over a handsome bounty to Tallon and company in return?

Personally, I’ve liked MacKinnon from Day 1 over Jones, only because Florida is deep with young blueliners. Eric Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov, Alex Petrovic and T.J. Brennan comprise a promising defensive corps, with Colby Robak and Tyson Strachan a notch below and Michael Matheson, 2012’s top pick, waiting in the wings. So I’d take MacKinnon, call it a win and prepare for the blast of the goal horn more often, though the selection may end Stephen Weiss’s tenure with Florida.

Can Weiss honestly be put in front of centers Drew Shore, Marcel Goc, Nick Bjustad or Shawn Matthias, especially since he may be iffy coming off wrist surgery?

In a season full of losses, the Panthers may have appeared to have suffered another one on Monday night, but they didn’t. All they lost was Jones — if that’s who they truly wanted — or the bargaining power they would have had over Colorado, who covets Jones. And trust me when I say that Tallon, who drafted Patrick Kane first overall in 2007, would have found out how badly the Avalanche wanted Jones. He would have plumbed that depth.

The Cats didn’t lose at the draft lottery.

They won.

Cats End Season on High Note, Look Ahead

By Bill Whitehead

By both mediocre teams’ standards, the season finale between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning likely turned out for the best, with each club getting the most it could out of the outcome, a 5-3 win for the visiting Cats, who rallied twice in a strong performance.

For Florida, beating its in-state rival is always a good thing, and this season’s games with the Bolts have been particularly frustrating. The Panthers battled back from down 2-0 and 3-2 on Saturday night, scoring three unanswered goals to end the season 2-2-1 against the Lightning. But it could have been much better than that if Florida had taken care of business in its only two meetings with the Bolts in South Florida.

On Feb. 16 at BB&T Center, Florida appeared to be on the way to a 5-4 win but couldn’t clear the puck out of its zone — a season-long problem that hounded the  team — with Tampa’s net empty. Teddy Purcell scored with 11 seconds left in regulation, and Benoit Pouliot tallied the game-winner in overtime.

A month later at home, the Cats turned in easily its most frustrating performance of the season in another loss — a defeat that truly defined the team’s shortcomings in the shortened season. Florida completely outhustled and outshot Tampa for the first 40 minutes, spending almost the entire time in front of Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback. Despite holding a 30-6 shot advantage after two periods and its opponent to a season-low 13, Florida dropped a 3-2 decision.

The Panthers (15-27-6) exacted a little revenge at the Tampa Times Forum, leaving the Cats fans who made the trip feeling a little better about the drive up I-75. The team showed a resilience that has been absent most of 2013, plus a snapshot (key word there) of its skill. Nick Bjugstad scored the first goal of his career. Alex Petrovic looked like a true NHL blueliner. T.J. Brennan looked like he had played with the Cats all year. Drew Shore and Quinton Howden were aggressive and had scoring chances. Eric Selleck scored his first NHL point by stealing the puck from Vincent Lecavalier in the third period and speeding toward Lindback, resulting in a tying goal by Scottie Upshall. And the prized rookie Jonathan Huberdeau strengthened his bid in his quest to win the Calder Trophy with three assists, including one on the empty-net goal by Marcel Goc that shut out the lights on Tampa’s season that started so promisingly but spiraled out of control.

The Lightning (18-26-4) started 6-1 and pulled out wins early in dramatic fashion, appearing to be a playoff team, but they only won 12 more times, fired mad genius coach Guy Boucher, traded away fan-favorite Calder candidate Cory Conacher for yet another goalie (Ben Bishop) and ended the season with a fizzle. This despite having flashy Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis and sharpshooter Steven Stamkos, who both had fantastic campaigns.

More significantly, though, for the Bolts is that it didn’t completely blow the season by beating Florida to close the year. In fact, St. Louis’ possible game-tying shot with the Tampa net empty that rang off the iron before Goc’s goal may have been a godsend. A win or overtime loss would have moved Tampa out of the top three draft spots (a club outside the top three could also do that Monday night by winning the draft lottery, with the Lightning then drafting fourth).

The top three selections in the draft, in some order, should be defenseman Seth Jones, center Nathan MacKinnon and left winger Jonathan Drouin. Unless it wins the lottery or makes a trade, Tampa won’t get Jones, which would be a huge asset to a club bereft of defense, but GM Steve Yzerman could walk away with MacKinnon or Drouin when he leaves the podium in Newark on June 30. That wouldn’t have happened if the Bolts had beaten Florida or even lost in overtime or a shootout if St. Louis had scored in the last 90 seconds.

Both teams’ futures look good. No team in the NHL showcased more top-shelf, highly drafted talent than Florida this year. Kris Versteeg likely won’t be healthy enough to open next season, but his and Sean Bergenheim’s return, plus some roster tightening — and maybe a deal or two at the draft — and the Cats should be a far better team next year. Adding one of the three top picks or trade out of the top spot for an impact player will just make them stronger.

The Lightning, meanwhile, will bring back all that offensive wizardry and a coach who has produced winning teams, but until it strengthens its blue line and finds a legit No. 1 goalie, Tampa won’t be a serious postseason contender. Both Lindback and Bishop have been backups during their careers. With Nashville having Pekke Rinne, who wasn’t going to be beaten out by Lindback, and Ottawa icing ex-Panther Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, both Lindback and Bishop were expendable. One of the tall goalies will have to step up and win the job in camp, not in a season-long tryout each night.

It was locker cleanout day on Sunday, but next season likely can’t get here soon enough for both teams.

Panthers 3, NY Rangers 2

By Bill Whitehead

SUNRISE — Florida Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom showed the New York Rangers a glimpse of what they can expect in future divisional play, halting the Blueshirts’ quest for a playoff spot in the process — for now.

Markstrom stopped 36 shots, and Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc and Drew Shore scored goals to help the Panthers break a six-game losing streak and get past the Rangers, 3-2, in front of 17,758 fans at BB&T Center on Tuesday night.

Following a scoreless first period in which Florida (14-26-6)  was outshot 10-2 by the visiting Rangers, Filip Kuba’s shot from above the left circle was tipped by Fleischmann at 5:04 into the second period, resulting in the Czech winger’s 10th goal. Defenseman Mike Weaver also recorded an assist on the play, and the Panthers held a 1-0 advantage after 40 minutes.

“We know the Rangers focus on blocking our shots so we’re not trying to mess around with it on the blue line. I had a good screen and maybe Fleischmann tipped it, I’m not sure,” said Kuba, who was originally credited with the goal, following the second period.

After Taylor Pyatt was awarded a goal when his shot was accidentally kicked in by Colby Robak, Florida defenseman T.J. Brennan jumped up after a loose puck, forcing New York’s Brad Richards to commit a tripping penalty as Brennan broke into the Rangers’ defensive zone. Florida went on the power play, and Goc, standing in the slot, broke the 1-1 tie by redirecting a pass from Fleischmann past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist for his eighth goal with 7:37 left.

Drew Shore broke a 22-game streak without a goal, including 18 without a point, by scoring shorthanded and into an empty net with 1:23 remaining in the game, his third tally. With Lundqvist pulled in the last minute of play, New York watched newly acquired center Derick Brassard cut the lead to 3-2 with 32.9 seconds left. However, Florida fought off a pair of good attempts by New York in the closing seconds to preserve the win.

Drew Shore on his night’s work and the season:

Florida has two games remaining and still sits in last in the league’s standings. A loss to either Toronto at home on Thursday or in Tampa on Saturday in the season finale would slot the Panthers with the best chance of securing the top overall pick and assure them of picking no worse than second in the June 30 draft in Newark.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen discusses his defense, rookie
Alex Petrovic and beating the New York Rangers:

The Rangers (24-18-4) outshot Florida 38-16 but wasted a chance to clinch its third straight playoff appearance and are just one point ahead of Winnipeg, who lost 5-3 in Washington. The Jets have one game remaining, at home against Montreal, while New York travels to Carolina on Thursday and rounds out the season at home against New Jersey. The Rangers and Ottawa Senators are tied for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, with the Jets just the one marker in arrears.

Florida won the season series 2-1 from the Rangers, also beating them 3-1 behind Markstrom on March 21. New York defeated Florida 6-1 last week.

Just Who Are These New York Islanders?

By Bill Whitehead

Remember the New York Islanders and how they factored into the Florida Panthers’ season a year ago? They were the season-opening opponent, hosting Florida on Long Island in that incredibly outdated, mausoleum of a hockey arena. The Panthers’ win that night was typical for the 2011-2012 season and set the tone for the team’s run to the Southeast Division crown with a 2-0 win behind a power-play goal, reliable defensive play and stellar goaltending.

Jason Garrison scored the power-play goal that night after Stephen Weiss scored Florida’s first goal of the season. In his Florida debut, goaltender Jose Theodore was rock solid and showed a preview of the consistency he would give the club in net during the season by recording 27 saves in authoring the 31st shutout of his career. Oddly, one of those players is already gone, and a very good chance exists that the other two won’t be back as well. Weiss and Theodore are both unrestricted free agents, and their future with the Panthers is uncertain right now.

Instead of remembering the past, though, the Panthers (13-22-6, 32 pts.) will look to the future in Tuesday night’s game (7 p.m., Sun Sports). Fans are still waiting for Nick Bjugstad to score a goal or get on the score sheet. Same for Quinton Howden. In fact, the first goal by either will put him just one behind Drew Shore. Yep, that’s another achievement worth clamoring for — a third goal by Shore. The rookie has seemingly hit the wall, scoring just twice in 36 games. Defenseman T.J. Brennan has two in 12 games, and had two taken away on deflections. Also, it would be nice to see Jonathan Huberdeau (one goal in last 15 games) get a leg up on the Calder competition.

Someone said the other day that he was in a bar in New York, and hockey highlights came on the TV. A fellow patron leaned over and said, “Hey, did you see that Islanders game?” I think the last time anyone said that, even in the City That Never Sleeps, may have been 1983 when The Police (“Every Breath You Take”) and Michael Jackson (“Billie Jean”) were battling it out for top song and most of the guys had steely eyes and were riveted on steel worker Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. That’s not exactly yesterday, folks. In that game last Saturday that the bar patron was referencing, the Islanders lost to the hated rival Rangers, dropping a 1-0 home game in overtime, but the rallying cry could likely be heard echoing throughout those dark, dank spaces of Nassau Coliseum: “Hey, at least we earned a point!”

Sound familiar?

The Islanders (21-16-5, 47 pts.) are clinging to the seventh spot in the playoff standings, just three points ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg, and are a fun team to watch. They have a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate in skillful John Tavares (24-18-42), plus 30-point scorers in wingers Matt Moulson (13-26-39) and Brad Boyes (8-23-31). Casey Cizikas burned Florida last month with the game-winning goal in New York’s 4-3 win at BB&T Center after the Panthers rallied from a 3-0 deficit. Michael Grabner, a player Cat fans are all too familiar with, is a burner on the ice who presents plenty of problems for defensemen on long stretch passes. On the back end, veteran Evgeni Nabokov is 20-11-5 in his 36 starts, logging a 2.50 GAA and a .911 save percentage.

But, really, who are these New York Islanders?

Simple. They’re the feel-good story of the Eastern Conference, an underdog team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 — a club that is generally overlooked, underestimated and not taken very seriously by hockey fans in the metropolitan New York area. A team who has stunk up the joint for a long while but appears to be headed to the postseason.

They’re last year’s Florida Panthers.

GETTING DRAFTY: In Calgary, the improving Flames dropped a 4-3 game to the Minnesota Wild, who received two goals from newly acquired Jason Pominville. The Flames have 36 points — four more than last-place Florida…In Denver, Columbus tied the game late on a goal by R.J. Umberger, then Nick Foligno scored with 28.7 seconds left in overtime to carry the Blue Jackets past the Avalanche for the win. The single point added by Colorado brings their total to 35, putting them 29th in the NHL…Carolina (36 points) and Tampa Bay (37) both play tonight — the Hurricanes in Ottawa, the Lightning in Winnipeg.

Cats Looking to Win Series from Penguins

By Bill Whitehead

With their 7-2 drubbing courtesy of the Jets left behind in Manitoba, the Florida Panthers will take to the ice tonight for home game No. 22 of 24, and they will be attempting to do something they have already accomplished at BB&T Center — beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, which they did, 6-4, on Feb. 26.

Florida (13-21-6, 32 pts.) stands in stark contrast to the Penguins, who earlier this week, to no one’s surprise, clinched the Atlantic Division crown in a 5-3 win at Carolina. Pittsburgh (31-10-0, 62 pts.) still has the competitive edge despite clinching, though, and will need it in the remaining seven games. The Penguins hold a five-point lead over Montreal and six-point edge on Boston in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and both of the Northeast Division teams have a game in hand over the Penguins. Pittsburgh also trails Chicago by four points for the overall No. 1 spot in the league, and the Blackhawks also have an extra game to play.

Some of the numbers between Pittsburgh and Florida are striking. As far as goals for and against, simply invert the numbers. The Penguins have tallied an NHL-best 138 goals this season, while the Panthers have yielded a league-high 139. The Pens haven’t been too charitable, allowing just 101 goals to the 98 netted by the Cats. And this stat sums up the clubs’ season in a nutshell: Pittsburgh didn’t lose in March, posting a 15-game winning streak; Florida has won 13 games…on the season.

The three-time Stanley Cup champions have been playing without Sidney Crosby since the captain broke his jaw and lost multiple teeth after being hit by a slap shot from teammate Brooks Orpik on March 30. Still the Hart Trophy favorite, No. 87 was recently given clearance to fly with the team to Florida, and he was in the press box during the club’s 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Crosby, who isn’t skating yet, will join the team in Sunrise in their effort to win the season series from Florida (Pittsburgh won at home, 3-1, on Feb. 22), though there’s no time table for his return. Also, defenseman Kris Letang (broken toe, groin) returned to the lineup against the Lightning; Letang (3-25-28) has missed 12 games this season with numerous ailments but still is third in scoring among defensemen behind P.K. Subban and Ryan Suter. Fellow blueliner Paul Martin (broken hand) has resumed skating.

Panthers fans will be seeing some new faces wearing the black and gold. Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero was the most active general manager near the trade deadline and made it known his intention is for his club to win the Stanley Cup now. He acquired forwards Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow, plus added rugged defenseman Douglas Murray. While Jokinen appears to be the minor acquisition, Shero was able to trade with Carolina for Jokinen, who was placed on waivers last month. By trading for him instead, Shero put the Hurricanes on the hook for a portion of Jokinen’s contract.

For Florida, Tomas Fleischmann and T.J. Brennan both had a goal and an assist against Winnipeg, and Brennan has been impressive since being acquired from Buffalo. Fleischmann has a seven-game point streak and 11 points in his last 12 games. The Panthers will head to the metropolitan New York area after the game, embarking on a four-game road trip beginning on Long Island on Tuesday against the playoff-primed New York Islanders.

The puck drops tonight at 7:30 in the final meeting between the two teams and will be broadcast on Sun Sports and 560 WQAM.

FRIDAY NIGHT ‘LIGHTS: In Calgary, the Flames allowed a late goal by Phoenix to force overtime, but Mark Giordano’s shot from the high slot with 23.1 seconds left in the extra session beat goalie Mike Smith and lifted Calgary to the win. The victory pulled the Flames out of a three-way tie for last in the league standings with Florida and Colorado and into a tie with Carolina with 34 points…In Newark, the Ottawa Senators continued their surprisingly strong season, despite playing without stars Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-0 behind a 33-save showing by former Panther goalie Craig Anderson. The ninth consecutive loss by the Devils and ex-Florida coach Pete DeBoer likely ended the team’s quest for the playoffs. New Jersey, who ousted Florida in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last year, trails ninth-place Winnipeg and the eighth-place New York Rangers by four points…

“Just Win, Baby” Doesn’t Apply to Panthers

By Bill Whitehead

Riding a streak of four wins in five games with each contest being decided by one goal, the Florida Panthers need to address this question: What exactly is the team playing for as this shortened season winds down? After tonight’s game with Winnipeg, the last between the two clubs as divisional and even conference rivals, the Panthers (13-20-6) will have just eight games remaining — three at home, with the first being this Saturday against the Atlantic Division champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

So what’s Florida’s goal at this point? To get out of the Southeast Division cellar, where it has been buried for the majority of the season? That’s possible, especially when considering that three of the bottom five teams in the entire NHL called the Southeast Division home this week. Three of five.

Tampa Bay won five of its first six this season and seemed to be the hot team on the rise when the year started, but it’s old nemesis — defense, particularly goaltending — reared its ugly head. It cost Lightning head coach Guy Boucher his job, plus sent Calder candidate Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick packing and heading northbound for, you guessed it, another goalie.

Carolina sat atop the division at 15-9-1 on March 12 to begin a home-and-home series with Washington. But following that game, the Hurricanes (16-21-2) have been outscored 56-21 since its contest against Washington two night later in the nation’s capital. Against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Carolina lost its franchise-record eighth straight home game, and let’s face it, real playoff teams don’t lose a snowman of games consecutively in their own barn.

At Winnipeg tonight, Florida will be facing a team that is truly schizophrenic, like Sally Field in the movie Sybil if you can remember that far back, but it was in color. The Jets (20-19-2, 42 pts.) have the ability to handle teams with ease or lose to inferior ones, such as the Panthers, who are 2-0-2 against Winnipeg this year. While the Jets may be as tough to figure out as a math equation with a lot of numbers and letters, their playoff hopes aren’t as confusing. The Jets are two points out of sixth place with fewer games remaining than the three clubs ahead of them with 44 points. Simply put, Winnipeg needs wins, and it wouldn’t hurt a bit if the suddenly surging Caps laid an egg or two. Like four of the five other teams in the Southeast, Winnipeg has had its time at the top, but Washington has come alive, led by Alex Ovechkin, who seemingly has emerged from hibernation. A desperate team counting on putting two points into the postseason bank at MTS Centre tonight, Winnipeg will likely give the Panthers its best effort.

Florida has nine games left, but hard reality is that it would probably be in the team’s best interest not to play better than 3-6-0 to close the season. Any more winning than that would pile on to the absurdity of this season and be self-defeating, but who draws up Xs and Os on performing poorly? Every team outlines a plan to win, and when executed properly it’s a beautiful thing. Coaches and players respond with, “Good hard work is rewarding, and this was our goal.” But no one sets in motion a plan for failure and achieving losses. It just happens.

When Al Davis owned the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, his famous rallying cry was, “Just win, baby” The Panthers, though, don’t need to adopt that mantra. It would’ve played well last year, though in reality that one was, “Just tie, baby, and take it to overtime” And it would’ve worked well when this season started after Florida’s 5-1 season-opening win over Carolina on Jan. 19.

However, Florida’s cry now should be, “Just play, baby.”

And whatever happens, happens.

Trade Deadline a Flurry of Activity at End

By Bill Whitehead

Wednesday’s much anticipated NHL trade deadline played out like Season 2 of The Walking Dead: slow, slow, slow then bam, a major payoff at the end. Hey, the little girl was right there under their noses the whole time. Same for the deadline as it inched closer and closer to its 3 p.m. finish – general managers finally put together a number of deals after a long lull. In all, 17 deals were made, many in the deadline’s last hour.

New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather traded away Marian Gaborik in a six-player deal that returned among other players Derick Brassard. New York also acquired Ryane Clowe from San Jose for three draft picks.

The Blueshirts received immediate dividends as Clowe scored twice and had an assist, and Brassard had a goal and three assists in New York’s 6-1 pasting of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Clowe was named the game’s first star while Brassard was the second. The two looked like they had been playing together for years. Clowe was everywhere, and Brassard demonstrated his playmaking skills with a sweet backhanded pass from the low slot right onto the stick of Clowe after Brassard earlier lifted a backhander past Marc-Andre Fleury for his first goal as a Ranger.

Minnesota made a major deal as well in landing Buffalo captain Jason Pominville. The streaking Washington Capitals went all-in on attempting to earn a playoff spot after a dreadful start by trading for Martin Erat but parted with top prospect Filip Forsberg, an 18-year-old forward whom many consider a future top line player. Forsberg was drafted No.11 overall in last year’s draft in Pittsburgh and has been an elite player in Sweden this season.

But the most surprising transaction of the day occurred between Ottawa and Tampa Bay as the Senators shipped goaltender Ben Bishop to the Lightning for winger Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick. The 6-foot-7 Bishop didn’t fit into Ottawa’s goaltending plans, and the Lightning, who have been plagued with poor netminding for years, made the move. The shocker was that it was Conacher and a pick that was sent to Ottawa, not the Lightning getting the pick. A solid Calder candidate, Conacher was a fan favorite and a feel-good story as he played well early while skating on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, but the Canisius alum’s numbers had dwindled significantly of late. Now he’s the top scorer on the Senators with 24 points.

But why would Bolts GM Steve Yzerman trade so much for a player who was the odd man out of the Ottawa crease, plus throw in a draft pick to boot, especially when Anders Lindback was supposed to be the answer in net? Yzerman gave up three good picks and a prospect to get the 24-year-old Lindback and Kyle Wilson. At least one – or maybe both – will likely be a bust.

Florida general manager Dale Tallon saw his trade deadline unfold a little differently than last year.

Last February, Tallon pulled the trigger on two deals that added depth to the Panthers as they pushed for the Southeast Division title. First, he acquired Jerred Smithson from Nashville for a sixth-round pick in 2012. A few days later he traded a prospect and a third-round selection this year for Wojtek Wolksi, a shootout specialist who wasn’t getting much ice time with the Rangers. Smithson was typically great on faceoffs and the penalty kill, while Wolski scored the game-tying goal on his first day with the Panthers, a 3-2 shootout win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh.

Smithson again was a part of Florida’s plans as Wednesday’s deadline neared. Tallon shipped the unrestricted free agent – 54.8 percent in the faceoff circle — to Edmonton, the NHL’s worst faceoff team (45.0 percent), for a fourth-round pick. Florida isn’t better off with No. 25 out of the lineup, and if Tallon decided to, he could purse the 34-year-old UFA on July 1. The other deal involved Mike Santorelli, who scored the game-winning goal last Thursday in a shootout win over Buffalo. Santorelli had been put on waivers numerous times and Winnipeg finally claimed him; eventually, it seemed as though some club would take a chance – which is something Santorelli had plenty of in Florida. With all the injuries Florida has incurred, no player, especially Santorelli, can make a claim that he didn’t have a chance to prove himself. His GWG Thursday, though, may have convinced the Jets that they needed that kind of spark as they continue to lose games but still hang on to the top of the Southeast.

But that was it on Tallon’s end. As one of only four teams that really have no shot at the playoffs, Florida was expected to have its roster picked over by 26 vulture-like clubs. However, Tallon wasn’t willing to part with Tomas Kopecky, Marcel Goc or anyone else for peanuts, which is the right move. No point to bust up the roster simply because of a slew of injuries nor deal a top rookie like Jonathan Huberdeau or promising one in Drew Shore, which is exactly what Tampa Bay did.

“When you’re at the bottom, teams just expect you to panic and give up players. That’s not going to happen here,” Tallon told the Miami Herald’s George Richards.

A case could be made that the best deal Tallon made was signing prized prospect Nick Bjugstad to a pro contract and bringing the Minnesota Gopher star to South Florida for his debut Saturday against the Washington Capitals, but that wasn’t a trade deadline transaction between Florida and another club.

Fortunately for the Florida Panthers, Tallon making very few deals turned out to be the best deal of the day.