Who will return? Florida Panthers Predictions - Part Two

Everybody knows the Panthers have problems. Lack of work ethic, under-performing players, overpaid players, a coaching and management carousel, fan frustration. The list is long. In an effort to fix the problems, the Panthers have hired former Chicago Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon to right the ship. Tallon has publicly stated that no player is untouchable, though in reality some players are less likely to move than others. He has also asked all of the players if they want to be a part of the team, ostensibly so those who are not interested can be more aggressively shopped. The following is the opinions of one writer on the odds of each player returning to the team in the fall. Part One covered the forwards, current roster first. Part Two covers defensemen and goaltenders. 

Defensemen

Bryan Allen
09/10 Salary: $3.0
10/11 salary: $3.1
09/10 Stats: 74GP 4/9/13 -8 99PIM 0PP 1SH 2GW
Odds: 5:1 on
Allen hasn't been effective since a knee injury two seasons ago. His contract makes him untradeable. The Panthers need a top-four defenseman to replace him and have the option of playing him as a sixth defensemen with limited minutes or buying out his contract. While a buyout would be attractive to fans, it would likely be less so to ownership. He will probably be back.

Keith Ballard
09/10 Salary: $4.2
10/11 salary: $4.2
09/10 Stats: 82GP 8/20/28 -7 88PIM 1PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 30:1 on
Keith Ballard is a good, fairly young defenseman. He's a bit overpaid, but not drastically so. He's not particularly attractive as trade bait and the Panthers have no reason to send him packing, so he will most likely be back in a top-four spot next season.

Keaton Ellerby
09/10 Salary: $0.875
10/11 salary: $0.875
09/10 Stats: 22GP 0/0/0 -2 2PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 50:1 on
Ellerby is the prospect that everyone has been waiting to break through. He wasn't quite there this year, but will get another shot at camp this summer. The Panthers likely will not trade him unless it's in a several player deal.

Jason Garrison
09/10 Salary: $0.875
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 39GP 2/6/8 5 23PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 20:1 on
Garrison showed promise this year. Called up in relief of Bryan Allen's knee early on and for Jordan Leopold later in the season, Garrison was shaky at first, but paired with Bryan McCabe he was better and more confident later on. He was penciled in as a fifth or sixth to start before Tallon was hired, and there's no reason to think he would not qualify and re-sign Garrison.

Dmitry Kulikov
09/10 Salary: $0.900
10/11 salary: $0.900
09/10 Stats: 68GP 3/13/16 -5 32PIM 1PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 1000:1 on
Kulikov was the positive story for the Panthers last season. Originally expected to go in the top ten, Kulikov's stock dropped on draft day due to teams' fears of losing him to the KHL. Kulikov was determined to play in North America, playing junior hockey in Quebec and taking English lessons. He was a steal at 14. GM Randy Sexton got the situation with Kulikov's contract sorted out and signed him on the last day and his early performance was good enough to keep him from getting sent back to juniors. Kulikov will be a legitimate top-four defensemen this year for the Panthers and is the player least likely to be traded.

Bryan McCabe
09/10 Salary: $4.150
10/11 salary: $4.150
09/10 Stats: 82GP 8/35/43 -4 83PIM 3PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 20:1 on
Captain McCabe is a solid top-four defenseman who was unfairly run out of Toronto. He'll be playing in the last year of his contract and may move on after, but is likely to remain this year on a team short of quality defensemen.

Down on the Farm

Ville Koistinen 
09/10 Salary: $1.0 
10/11 salary: $1.4
09/10 Stats: 17GP 1/3/4 1 8PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 2:1 on
Koistinen, aka Sexton's Folly, was signed to be a sixth defenseman, but was too shaky for Coach DeBoer, who relegated him to playing fourth-line forward before benching him and finally having him sent to Rochester, where he sustained a season-ending injury. He's untradeable at his current salary, so they'll send him to Rochester for the season, buy him out or waive and recall him in hopes of some team taking him at half salary. In any case, he won't play for the Panthers this season.

Clay Wilson
09/10 Salary: $0.500
10/11 salary: $0.500
09/10 Stats: 2GP 0/0/0 -5 0PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 100:1 on
Prospect Wilson was called up for a couple of games late in the season, and didn't look out of place. Whether that was because of his quality or the lack thereof in the team remains to be seen. In either case, Wilson will be back to play in Rochester next season.

Luke Beaverson
09/10 Salary: $0.530
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 0GP
Odds: 20:1 on
Beaverson has yet to play in the NHL, but will probably be qualified and re-signed for another couple of years in the minors.

Goaltenders

Scott Clemmensen
09/10 Salary: $1.0
10/11 salary: $1.1
09/10 Stats: 63GP 62GS 2.55GAA 23-28-11-7 .925
Odds: 50:1 on
Clemmensen was signed for three years as a backup and the likely scenario is that he will return to be Tomas Vokoun's backup next season and then challenge prospect Jacob Markstrom for the starter role in the 2011-2012 season.

Tomas Vokoun
09/10 Salary: $5.7
10/11 salary: $6.3
09/10 Stats: 23GP 20GS 2.91GAA 9-8-2-1 .912
Odds: 10:1 on
Dale Tallon has told Vokoun he's not looking to trade him, but Vokoun is in the last season of his contract and offers will likely come in for the Czech netminder. Whether he remains is down to those offers, but there is a very good chance he will be back in the fall, possibly to be dealt at the deadline if the Panthers aren't in a playoff position.

Alexander Salak
09/10 Salary: $.875
10/11 salary: $.875
09/10 Stats: 2GP 0GS 5.37GAA 0-1-0-0 .850
Odds: 10:1 on
Salak has not performed well when called up and thrown into games the Panthers are losing, but has been respectable in the minors. Rochester needs a backup for Markstrom next season and Salak is under contract, so will return.

Tyler Plante
09/10 Salary: $.710
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 0GP
Odds: 10:1
Plante is one goalie too many in the system right now and with Salak signed for another year to back up Markstrom in Rochester, he is likely to be let go in favor of newer prospects.

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