The Panthers' Dilemma: What Will Florida Do at Deadline?

Jesse MorrisContributor IFebruary 25, 2009

OK, so the Boston match didn't go as planned for the Florida Panthers.

The team's management, though, faces a lot of more pressing and vital concerns in the coming week. That big scary trade deadline is looming, and for the faithful especially, there is mounting concern.

Rumours have abounded through most of the season, and at this point they have built to an almost fever pitch. Jacques Martin has made it publicly known that if offers for Jay Bouwmeester don't look beneficial, no move will be made, but some of the rumours and speculation do seem worth investigating.

The Flyers have been a possible trade partner in the eyes of the public for some time now, and the expected package as seen by analysts looks like prospect James Van Reimsdyk and forward Daniel Briere in exchange for Bouwmeester. At first this move had me perplexed. The Panthers give up one of their strongest offensive assets for a prospect and a forward who has been plagued by injury this entire season. 

This seems like a typically bad Florida trade on the surface, and may in fact be a bad idea, but Briere would bring depth up front and has very good numbers in the two seasons prior to this one, and Van Riemsdyk could at one point provide a strong offensive hand given the right amount of time and grooming.

The problem in this case is that Florida teams have an historical record of giving up their top players in return for prospects, pipe dreams, or worse. The situation in this market is so bad that the very word "trade" sparks fear and worry in the fanbase.

The situation here is tenuous, and I said in a previous article that the Panthers should roll the dice on making the playoffs this year regardless of Bouwmeester's decision on a contract. It seems Jacques Martin has agreed with that sentiment, but at this point there are seven—count them, seven—other players headed for unrestricted free agency come July 1.

I stand by my statement to keep Bouwmeester as long as we have him and go for the playoffs, but I think Martin needs to consider the Bouwmeester contract finished and gone on July 1. With that assumption in mind, the Cats can expect some space below the salary cap with which to work. He should work on contracts with Richard Zednik, Radek Dvorak, Ville Peltonen, Nick Boynton, Karlis Skrastins, Jassen Cullimore, and Craig Anderson.

I think Martin can consider a trade in the offseason to augment the blueline if the miraculous decision by Jay to stay in Sunrise doesn't come through. Or, having made the playoffs and sated the faithful, work with Bryan Allen, Noah Welch, or Keaton Ellerby. I would not personally recommend the latter situation as two of these players are simply injury magnets, and the third seems like another wait-and-see prospect.

In the end, however, from the management's perspective, it might make more sense to trade Jay Bouwmeester. At this point with so much of the team's core up for free agency, Bouwmeester is holding the Florida Panthers' future for ransom. If Martin can't defuse the hostage situation, we might be looking forward saying "next year" this April.