From The Press Box


From The Press Box is a weekly column written by FloridaPanthers.com and NHL.com writer Alain Poupart. Poupart has been covering the Panthers and the NHL for 20 years.

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Deadline Delivers

The Panthers scored big with one of the biggest acquisitions around the NHL.

Thursday, 03.6.2014 / 4:30 PM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Deadline Delivers

If, for some reason, there remained any doubt whatsoever that the NHL Trading Deadline is more exciting than that of any other sport, it should be indisputable now.

This year’s deadline once again produced some high drama, and the Panthers were right in the middle of it with one of the biggest deals throughout the league. When Rory Babich was introduced as the team’s new president/CEO in a conference call Monday night, GM Dale Tallon promised some bold action by the team in the quest to bring a Stanley Cup to South Florida.

He clearly wasn’t kidding.

Bringing back goalie Roberto Luongo, one of the best and most popular players in franchise history, certainly qualified as a bold move. It also was a strong move, for several reasons.

The biggest, and most obvious, reason the Luongo trade was a good one for the Panthers is that it solidified their goaltending situation for the next several years. This is meant as no disrespect to Tim Thomas, who did a solid job in net after signing in September, but the reality is that Thomas will turn 40 years old next month.

Luongo is five years younger and, as he pointed out during his introductory press conference on Wednesday, is still on top of his game. Just compare his stats from this season (2.38 goals-against average, .917 save percentage) to his career numbers (2.51 GAA, .919 save percentage), and you’ll see he’s right.

Luongo is just the type of goalie needed for a team loaded with young talent, which is exactly what the Panthers are. The fact that Luongo has remained a fan favorite in South Florida even long after he first left is a bonus.

This trade was a long time coming, and in the end the Panthers worked out a good deal for themselves. As Tallon pointed out, Jacob Markstrom has plenty of potential as a goaltender, but he’s no longer the sure thing he once appeared. As for Shawn Matthias, he’s in the middle of one of his hot streaks now, but the reality is he wasn’t a core player for the Panthers moving forward and he also seemed to welcome a trade to a Canadian team.

The Luongo trade, however, was only one of the many moves made by the Panthers.

The second one that really stood out was the re-signing of veteran right wing Brad Boyes. There had been speculation that perhaps the Panthers would trade him because he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July, but Boyes has proven too valuable an offensive threat to let go.

On a team that should have several young players next season, Boyes will bring a veteran presence that only will help. Plus his shootout prowess also is invaluable.

The Panthers did trade away a couple of veteran free agents-to-be this week, with Marcel Goc going to Pittsburgh and Mike Weaver going to Montreal. Both of them should be saluted for their contributions to the Panthers, Weaver for his never-ending willingness to sacrifice his body and Goc for his consistent two-way play. And who can forget Goc’s game-tying goal late in the third period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New Jersey Devils two years ago.

Both, however, were expendable — Weaver because of the team’s young depth on the blue line, and Goc because of the Panthers’ abundance of talented young centers in the organization.

One of those young centers is newcomer Brandon Pirri, acquired from the Blackhawks on Sunday night. A skilled offensive player, Pirri joins a talented group that includes Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Drew Shore and Vincent Trocheck, who is expected to make his NHL debut Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres at the BB&T Center.

A lot of the Panthers’ young players are expected to get extensive action down the stretch this season to help them get experience and set the foundation for a successful 2014-15 season and beyond. The trade deadline, exciting as always, provided one key piece for that foundation.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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