Before the trade deadline, there were a ton of rumors surrounding the Panthers. None of which materialized. The most popular/unpopular was the Vokoun rumor that would have sent him to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Stuff like this happens every year, people start thinking that their best players are bargaining chips instead of solutions. For a team to win, they need to look at the bigger picture.
The reality is that there are a ton of ways a team can improve itself. It can re-sign players, trade players, call up players, drop players, draft players, scout players, put players on waivers, cut salary, and hire new staff. Most teams use all of these options to create a winning club.
Before the trade deadline, the biggest problem for the Panthers was offensive depth. The defense was playing well, but the offense was having trouble putting the puck in the net. This is especially true when Horton was injured. That's when we really saw the lack of depth.
However, after trading two defenders in Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg, the Panthers created a couple of defensive holes that need to be filled as well. The fact that they gave these two players up for draft picks should tell you how serious draft day will be for the Panthers.
Unfortunately, the draft doesn't have an immediate impact because it takes a few years for the drafted players to develop. This is something we're all familiar with. The draft adds future options, but it can't be used as a short term solution.
For improvement next season, the Panthers need to rely on something else. That something else will more than likely be free agency. Right now, the Panthers have around $4M in cap room (Cap Geek), and could easily sign a few free agents with that money. More importantly, they could find the "depth players" that will be able to perform well on the bottom lines.
The thing about the free agent market, is that it will have the most talent for the most reasonable cost. This is where the Panthers will add the most to their lineup, with the most reasonable cost. It will allow them to keep their good players, and start hoarding talent on their team.
More importantly, it will give the drafted players more time to develop. They won't be calling them up too early. Not only will it help them create a winning season next year, it will also help them create winning seasons in the future.
See more of Eric's thoughts and opinions at Tips for Hockey