The Florida Panthers will celebrate their 20th season of existence in the NHL this season, along with the 20th year of this writers residency in South Florida. That combined with the NHL reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the Wayne Gretzky trade, I felt the timing would be perfect to take a look at some moves made by the Panthers that likely made your jaw drop. Or maybe even punch your laptop if you have that much emotion in you. While none of the trades covered in this article will equal the surprise of the Great One being sent to Los Angeles 25 years ago, there were still a few deals that were emotionally shocking for this organEYEzation. Of the many trades that were made by the general managers of this team, the one’s described here are seven that were likely the most controversial during the Panthers 20 year history.
As any passionate hockey can attest to, whenever a trade is made, the initial reaction can often be quite different than the one you have after your emotions have settled down. First you must get over “your favorite” player getting traded, and for whom. Next you need to understand why the trade was made, and finally, you need to decide in your own mind if it was the right move for all involved. I’ll never forget that day in August of 1996 when the Chicago Blackawks traded Jeremy Roenick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Alexei Zhamnov and Craig Mills. I went absolutely ballistic when that happened. Roenick should have been a Blackhawk for life. I ultimately forgave, but will never forget. And no, it was not the right move.
Here’s seven trades by the Florida Panthers that may, or may not have made you feel the same as I did on that day in August:
1) October 22, 2011: The Panthers had a home game against the New York islanders on this night, and it was one of the few home games I missed that season. I remember checking out at Publix (our local grocery chain for those of you not familiar) with my phone literally on fire from all the notices about this trade. Fan favorite, and heart throb to some of the ladies, David Booth was packaged along with Stephen Reinprecht & a 3rd round pick in 2013 to the Vancouver Canucks for veterans MIkael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. General Manager Dale Tallon was admittedly not happy with the performance of the Panthers early in the season, and was looking also at the performance of David Booth. In six games up to that point, Booth had one assist, no goals on 14 “soft” shots, and was a minus 6. Tallon wanted to send a message, and boy did he. The trade was made following two shutout losses in a row, to Washington and Buffalo, both by the score of 3-0. Samuelsson and Sturm came in and provided stability, flexibility and veteran leadership playing an integral role in helping the Panthers to their first ever division crown. Suffice it to say, Booth has not been the same player since the hit from Mike Richards, and trading him at that time was the best move for the Panthers.
2) June 24, 2011: The Florida Panthers had a history or making deals on or just before the draft, and on this day, Dale Tallon again put the club right into the spotlight. Watching the draft on TV, when Tallon was seen talking with Chicago GM Stan Bowman, you had a feeling that something was up. As a fan of both teams, I cannot tell you the angst that was building up inside me. Whether this was a favor to Dale, or one to Stan, they each helped each other out. However, the Panthers won this by a landslide, even before the season had started. The Cats traded over priced, and disappointing Rostislav Olesz for Brian Campbell. The Panthers unloaded a player who became useless, and the Blackhawks gave up a very solid player, but needed to shed some salary, that wold allow them to make other roster moves. Olesz isn’t missed, and has only played in six NHL games since the trade with no points, and was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the New Jersey Devils this summer. Campbell has been nothing short of excellent for the Panthers, and is the smoothest skater and best passer on the club. He’s been worth every penny of his contract. The Panthers needed a smart, skilled and reliable blueliner, and Campbell has been able to provide just that in his two seasons here. Normally the leader in time on ice, Soupy has been able to calm things down in the defensive zone, has increased the effectiveness of the power play, and is likely the reason why it no longer takes 8 passes to get out of the defensive zone.
3) June 22, 2010: When Dale Tallon took over as general manager, he interviewed every player at the end of the 2010 season and asked them if they wanted to be part of the blueprint. When it came to Nathan Horton, Horton said no. Nate was another overall disappointment for Florida, who needed a change of scenery apparently. It’s too bad because after a three years of scoring 28, 31 and 27 goals, his production slipped. As well as his attitude, which seemingly became lackadasical most of the time. Horton was sent to the Boston Bruins along with Gregory Campbell for Dennis Wideman, a 2010 1st round pick (#15-Derek Forbort) and a 2011 3rd round pick (#90-Kyle Rau). Horton and Campbell have appeared in the Stanley Cup finals two years in a row, winning the Cup in 2011, and losing to the Chicago Blackhawks this past year. Horton signed a seven year deal this summer to play in Columbus, and Wideman after a stint in Washington now plays for the Calgary Flames. Nate could have been a Panther for a very long time, but like his performance on the ice in his last couple years here, he didn’t care.
4) June 20, 2008: This was a trade that you could see coming, but thought that the return could have been better. Jacques Martin who was the coach of the Panthers, and general manager at the same time after Mike Keenan was fired, or resigned depending on who’s telling the story, won a power struggle with then captain Olli Jokinen. Jokinen’s career took off once he was made captain and given more responsibility by Keenan, cause that’s what Iron Mike does (see Jeremy Roenick and Chris Pronger among others). Jokinen had a horrible finish to the 2007-2008 season which could be attributed to the unfortunate accident between him and Richard Zednick, when Jokinen’s skate accidently sliced the neck of Zednik. Olli’s production basically fell to the floor, and his mental state was likely shaken by the accident. Jokinen was sent to Phoenix for defencemen Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard, and a 2nd round pick in the 2008 draft. One of JM’s first trades, proving that he had no business filling the position. The Panthers gave up a consistent scorer and brought in two defencemen who are no longer here, and the Cats are still struggling for offensive help.
5) June 23, 2006: Drama. Demands. Another power struggle. This trade will go down as one of the most shocking not only in Florida Panthers history, but in the history of the NHL. Debating on whether this trade was good or bad isn’t going to happen in this article. However, this trade certainly took everyone by surprise, as the Panthers and Roberto Luongo couldn’t agree on particulars. Lou was sent to the Vancouver Canucks along with young defenceman Lukas Kraijcek and a 6th round pick in the 2006 draft (#163-Sergei Shirokov). In return the Panthers received defenceman Bryan Allen, goaltender Alex Auld, and power forward Todd Bertuzzi, along with a 2007 conditional 6th round pick (not exercised)in that years draft. Allen was a very serviceable defenceman for the Panthers during his time here. Auld was coming off a 33 win season in Vancouver, but injured his knee during his only year here, and seemed to have his confidence broken by Martin. He truly has never been the same since, and that’s unfortunate because Auld was a good guy.
Bertuzzi came to Florida on the heels of the Steve Moore incident, and looking for a change of scenery. Had Big Bert not have suffered a back injury, we’ll never know what a difference he might have made. It was Bertuzzi’s injury, and Auld’s poor performance that made the Panther faithful so disturbed with this trade. Luongo was only 27 years old at the time, and had already begun the bad habit of giving up soft goals late in a game. His contract negotiations with his agent Jules Lupien and the Panthers became public knowledge. Luongo and Lupien’s demands allowed Luongo to walk right into Iron Mike’s trap door, which had a plane ticket right out of town. Looking back, the Panthers didn’t win with Luongo, and weren’t winning without him. Move on people…….this was a long time ago.
6) January 17, 1999: One of the biggest deals in Florida Panther history, the Cats acquired the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure in an effort to fill a new arena, provide excitement to the fans…….and spend $10 million dollars a year on one player while doing it. Little did they know how much they would be handcuffed by this contract, and even after Bure was ultimately traded to the New York Rangers, the Panthers have spent more than a decade without a high profile player. Bure was certainly electric, and put you on the edge of your seat as he scored 58, and 59 goals, with multiple hat tricks while dazzling the crowd in South Florida. Unfortunately, the cost of Bure’s contract was choking the Panthers, and they could not make any trades to acquire support for the highly skilled winger as he was ultimately traded. The trade which was a multi player deal that saw the Panthers send Mike Brown, Dave Gagner, a young and mistake prone Ed Jovanovski, a 1999 or 2000 1st round pick (2000 #23-Nathan Smith) to Vancouver, and received defencemen Brad Ference, Bret Hedican and a 1999 or 2000 3rd round pick (2000 #77-Robert Fried). A very big trade which provided some excitement, but with no supporting cast, Bure could not do this on his own.
The trade was controversial in the fact that for the very first time a legitmate superstar was going to be a member of the still young franchise. However what the Panthers didn’t count on was that Bure wasn’t able to lead the Panthers back to a Stanley Cup Final all by himself. The youth never developed. The front office and coaching staff was never settled, and the club was losing money. Mostly because of Bure’s contract. It was said that once Bure was traded, the Panthers would be able to use that money in free agency, or acquire better players. Neither happened.
7) November 19, 1996: After making their miracle run for the Stanley Cup the previous season, the Florida Panthers got off to a slow start in the 1996-1997 season. Feeling that a shakeup was in order, Bryan Murray the teams GM at the time decided to send a message when he traded crowd favorite Stu Barnes along with defencemen Jason Woolley to the Pittsburgh Penguins for tall, sluggish, and quite disappointing Chris Wells. Barnes who was listed at 5′ 11″, seemed much shorter, yet played with more energy and vigor than you have in your little fingernail, was sorely missed. An excellent two way player who worked hard at both ends of the ice, was invaluable on the penalty kill, and was constantly used for those all important faceoffs. Every time Stu touched the puck, the crowd would chant “Stuuuuuuuuuuuu” for as long as the biscuit was on his stick. The Cats haven’t had a crowd react to a player like that since the year Ed Belfour was here and they chanted “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” with each miraculous save. Unless of course you count the times when the boo’s start whenever former defenceman Jay Bouwmeester visits South Florida and he touches the puck.
Chris Wells played 141 games for the Panthers over four seasons and then disappeared into hockey oblivion. Not sure what the Panthers saw in him other than his size, which was 6′ 6″. He scored a total of seven goals, and had 18 assists in his time here. Wells is lucky that his performance, or lack of didn’t take place in a hockey hotbed, because the wrath that he would have received would have been 1,000 times worse than what he heard here. For me, this goes down as the worst trade in Panthers history.
If I missed any that you think should have been in here, list them in the comments section, and why you think so.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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