Deadline dealings show Cats pointed in right direction

After monitoring Twitter and various hockey outlets on Monday, NHL’s trade deadline day, I’ve come to the conclusion the Florida Panthers are clearly on the right track.

The Panthers, the day’s most active sellers, went about blowing up the roster in four separate deals, which were as follows:

Radek Dvorak and a 5th round pick this year to Atlanta for Niclas Bergfors and Patrick Rissmiller. Hockey experts barely had a chance to put down their cups of Tim Horton’s coffee before Florida sent Dvorak, a two-time Cat, to Southeast Division foe Atlanta. The loss of Dvorak, a UFA after this season, won’t help Florida’s PK, but the team gets a solid scorer and former first-round selection in Bergfors, who has 33 goals in 142 career games. His scoring skills will be a plus to the offensively-challenged Panthers. Rissmiller is a big body who can check, and the fifth-rounder going back is the one acquired in the Cory Stillman deal with Carolina. Hockey experts unanimously had Florida coming out ahead in this deal.

Dennis Wideman to Washington for Jake Hauswirth and a 3rd round pick this year.Wideman, the league’s top goal scorer among defensemen on the power play this year, clearly had value, and with Mike Green questionable, the Capitals were looking for some help as they chase Tampa Bay for the top spot in the division. This move gets Wideman’s salary ($4.5 million next year) off the books, the pick will add more assets and Hauswirth is a 6-foot-5 left winger who just turned 23.

Bryan Allen to Carolina for Sergei Samsonov. Allen was an outstanding character player for the Cats — solid in the dressing room and on the ice in standing up for his teammates. However, his knees aren’t nearly as durable as they once were. Worse, his contract next year calls for $3.15 million before it expires. Samsonov is a UFA after this season and likely won’t return to South Florida. Ironically, Florida and Carolina play Tuesday night in Raleigh Tuesday, where Allen scored the game-winning goal to beat the Hurricanes in overtime on Jan. 3.

Chris Higgins to Vancouver for Evan Oberg and a 3rd round pick in 2013. Higgins has a broken finger and has been snakebit throughout the season, hitting too many posts and missing many opportunities. However, the UFA winger was one of Florida’s more skilled offensive players and had some moments. Higgins’ injury was thought to be more long-term, but when it was reduced to a week instead of a month, he became available and a deal was struck near the deadline. Oberg is a young defenseman who has played in Manitoba and shown some offensive upside. In the odd stat department, Oberg and Hauswirth, acquired in the Wideman deal with Washington, were born on the same day.

“Today, and the previous few weeks, were extremely significant for the Florida Panthers franchise,” club GM Dale Tallon said in a press release. “We acquired a number of assets that fit our plan, we raised our number of 2011 draft picks to a total of ten, and we put ourselves in a position to be aggressive in pursuing top notch free agents come July 1.”

Two things stand out from the frenzied day — getting a talented offensive player like Bergfors and dumping a ton of salary. I was hoping Florida would add Bergfors when Atlanta placed him on waivers recently, but getting him now and freeing up salary for talented UFAs on July 1 is a major plus. A quick look at the UFA list shows Brad Richards, Jason Arnott, Brooks Laich, Jussi Jokinen, Nikolay Zherdev, Marco Sturm, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble among others, some who have earned between $1-2 million this season and could get a decent raise due to their performances.

During Monday’s crazy deadline doings, which was full of Twitter refreshing and tuning in to media outlets north of the border, I also watched Miracle, rejoicing in one of the greatest U.S. sports moments ever, which occurred 31 years and one week ago on Tuesday. I can’t say that Florida fans will necessarily feel the immediate jubilation those folks in Lake Placid, N.Y, felt three decades ago, but the Panthers took a major step in the right direction Monday in following Tallon’s blueprint for success.

That’s something Florida fans can rejoice in right now. Simply put, Monday was a great day for the Cats and showed the organization’s commitment to the future.

Miracles don’t happen overnight.

By Bill Whitehead
NHLHS Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent
Twitter: @BillWhiteheadFL