Broward News

If It's Late June, It Must Be Time for the Panthers to Ditch Their Best Player

Will the last Panther fan in South Florida please turn off the lights in the BankAtlantic? Late Friday, star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was traded to the Calgary Flames for... well... nothing.

As a hockey fan who wants to see the team thrive in South Florida, I tried to give management subtle hints that it should trade Bouwmeester at the March 4 deadline. That way, the team would avoid the semi-annual rite of blundering away one of its best players. (We still remember you, Roberto Luongo!)

And when those subtle hints didn't work and the deadline came closer, I practically begged the team to deal Bouwmeester. A former No. 3 pick, he hated playing in South Florida and was eligible to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. So for the good of the team's future, it had to get some talent -- or at least some high draft picks in exchange for Bouwmeester.

Sun-Sentinel beat writer Steve Gortens talked to acting GM Randy Sexton on Saturday after the NHL Draft.

Let's start it out with the most outrageous quote:

When it became apparent we couldn't sign Jay, we wanted something of value. We worked very hard over the last two weeks to put together a deal.
No. Absolutely not. It was "apparent" long before mid-June that Bouwmeester was going to leave on his own if he wasn't traded. In fact, in the same interview, Sexton concedes this.
We would have loved to re-sign him, but for anybody who has followed our team, it's been fairly apparent for at least a season or two what his long-term intentions were.
So if management knew that Bouwmeester was going to walk, why wasn't he dealt for a star of similar caliber when it was possible in early March?
It's always easy to look in the rear-view mirror. We were a long way down the road at the trade deadline, but we didn't feel we had the value that was required. What's more, we were in the thick of a playoff race.
Whatever the Panthers were offered for Bouwmeester in early March is a helluva lot better than an injury-prone defenseman and a third-round pick. Besides, the Panthers weren't in the "thick" of the playoff race. They were on the fringes of it, and ultimately they missed the playoffs, for the eighth year in a row. It's the longest streak of futility among active NHL teams. The type of streak that come October will make the BankAtlantic Center more desolate than ever.

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Thomas Francis