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Who will return? Florida Panthers predictions - Part One

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 covers the forwards, current roster first. Part Two covers defensemen and goaltenders. 

Byron Bitz
09/10 Salary: $0.675
10/11 salary: $0.700 09/10
Stats: 74GP 5/6/11 -8 33PIM 0PP 0SH 2GW
Odds: 10:1 on
Bitz came to the Panthers late in the season with minor leaguer Craig Weller and a second-round pick. Bitz is a big, but slow forward who is a decent bottom-six player. With no real reason to send him packing and likely no inquiries, barring his being a throw-in on a trade, he'll be back starting on the third or fourth line.

David Booth
09/10 Salary: $3.5
10/11 salary: $3.75 09/10
Stats: 28GP 8/8/16 -3 23PIM 0PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 50:1 on
Popular forward David Booth sustained two concussions last season. Over the last two seasons, he's been the hardest working player outside Tomas Vokoun and has become the face of the franchise as far as the fans are concerned. He'll stay not because of this but because the long-term effects of his injuries are not yet known. Teams will be wary of taking Booth because of this.

Gregory Campbell
09/10 Salary: $.800
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 60GP 2/15/17 -5 53PIM 0PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 5:1 on 
Gregory Campbell is a solid, hard-working third-line center. He's a decent defensive center who won't be due a big raise, so will likely be re-signed and be back on the third line.

Evgeni Dadonov
09/10 Salary: $0.613
10/11 salary: $0.662
09/10 Stats: 4GP 0/0/0 -1 0PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 20:1
Dadonov, who spent last season in Rochester, recently caused a stir when he stated publicly that if he wasn't guaranteed to play for the Panthers this season he would bolt for the KHL. While he's a talented player, he may not yet be ready and Tallon likely doesn't want to play his game.

Radek Dvorak
09/10 Salary: $1.6
10/11 salary: $1.8
09/10 Stats: 76GP 14/18/32 -7 20PIM 1PP 3SH 1GW
Odds: 100:1 on
Dvorak is not a flashy player, but doesn't have a high paycheck and is valuable to the Panthers as a penalty-killer and energy winger. He's the kind of player one picks up in free agency rather than in a trade. Unless he's included to sweeten a deal, he'll be back.

Michael Frolik
09/10 Salary: $0.850
10/11 salary: $0.850
09/10 Stats: 82GP 21/22/43 -4 43PIM 5PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 2:1
Frolik is a talented player who should really take off this year, especially if Tallon can bring in some more talented top-six forwards, but he also may be attractive to other, cash-strapped, teams for his potential and low salary.

Nathan Horton
09/10 Salary: $3.5
10/11 salary: $4.0
09/10 Stats: 65GP 20/37/57 -1 42PIM 7PP 2SH 4GW
Odds: 100:1
Horton, though beginning to show on the promise of his talent, has worn out the welcome of fans with his at times lazy play. Last season, there were times he tried to take the team on his back and win games, but he didn't have the support. While he's a player to build around, it may be time for a change of scenery. Additionally, his stock is high and now is the time to trade him, probably for that big center Dale Tallon wants.

Kamil Kreps
09/10 Salary: $.800
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 76GP 5/9/14 -7 18PIM 1PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 0
Kreps is the first player this off-season to leave for Europe. It was highly likely the team was going to let him walk in the off-season, so he made the decision for them.  

Steve MacIntyre
09/10 Salary: $0.550
10/11 salary: UFA
09/10 Stats: 22GP 0/1/1 -3 24PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 100:1
MacIntyre is a big, bruising forward who can fight but isn't particularly skilled. Coach Pete DeBoer has a history of assigning players like this to seats in the penalty box. It is unlikely he will return.

Shawn Matthias
09/10 Salary: $.785
10/11 salary: $.765
09/10 Stats: 55GP 7/9/16 -3 10PIM 0PP 0SH 2GW
Odds: 10:1 on
Matthias is a big, talented center who has had some motivation problems. He came into camp two years ago out of shape, but last season changed his attitude. He should have a better season this year. He is the kind of player the Panthers need going forward and should be back to start on the third line. He'll start on the fourth l‌ine.

Rostislav Olesz
09/10 Salary: $ 2.3
10/11 salary: $3.1
09/10 Stats: 78GP 14/15/29 -4 28PIM 3PP 0SH 3GW
Odds: 2:1 on
As much as it pains the fans, Olesz will likely be back to start this year. Former GM Jacques Martin signed Olesz to a six-year deal based on his potential, which has yet to materialize. This contract is a millstone around the Panthers' necks, which leaves them with only a few choices: trading for someone else's salary nightmare, sending him to the minors, benching him in hopes he bolts for the KHL and buyout. A buyout or assignment to the Americans are probably the best options, but ownership may balk at the price tag, so Olesz will probably be back to start, but management will look for ways to ship him off all season.

Victor Oreskovich
09/10 Salary: $.250
10/11 salary: $.625
09/10 Stats: 50GP 2/4/6 -8 26PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 100:1 on
Last season Oreskovich played on a Panthers team starved of talent and riddled with injuries. While energetic, he's a bit sloppy. Nevertheless, he'll be back in Rochester next season.

Steven Reinprecht
09/10 Salary: $1.8
10/11 salary: $2.175
09/10 Stats: 82GP 16/22/38 -1 18PIM 3PP 0SH 1GW
Odds: 20:1 on
Steven Reinprecht is a solid bottom-six center who was sold to the fans as a second-line center. If Tallon brings in that number one center the team needs, that will leave Reinprecht a spot on the third line at wing, possibly flipping back and forth with Campbell. He's unlikely to be traded as his contract is not desirable.

Cory Stillman
09/10 Salary: $3.5
10/11 salary: $3.5
09/10 Stats: 58GP 15/22/37 -3 22PIM 3PP 0SH 4GW
Odds: 10:1
Stillman is a veteran forward with a couple of Stanley Cups on his resume. He's overpaid for his production and his best days are behind him, but he's still a solid, if slow, player. He's good positionally, which helps compensate for his lack of speed. He's smart enough to look to make a pass to a faster player if he gets a breakaway. He tied Nathan Horton in the lead for game-winning goals last season. His leadership abilities and two Cups may make him desirable to a contender with cap space and a lot of young players. If given the opportunity, the Panthers will trade him for a younger player.

Nick Tarnasky
09/10 Salary: $.550
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 31GP 1/2/3 -5 85PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 30:1
Tarnasky has spent the last couple of seasons becoming a better pest. As mentioned above, DeBoer has little use for players of this ilk and it looked like Nasty Nick was going to spend the last quarter of the season in the press box until Booth was reinjured and DeBoer had to play him. Nick will get a spot on someone else's fourth line or in the minors next season.

Stephen Weiss
09/10 Salary: $3.0
10/11 salary: $3.2
09/10 Stats: 80GP 28/32/60 -7 40PIM 12PP 0SH 2GW
Odds: 20:1 on
Weiss has long been touted as a first-line center. The truth is that on most teams he would be on the second-line. That said, Weiss is a solid second-line center who can play on the power play and the penalty kill. He's a good "tough minutes" player that would fit on a lot of teams. His only problems here have been lack of support and an expectation that he could play above his ability. He'll likely return because the Panthers need him, but there's a chance he could be traded because other teams are interested. If traded, it will likely be for a couple of players: a roster player and prospects.

Down on the Farm

Kenndal McArdle
09/10 Salary: $.850
10/11 salary: RFA
09/10 Stats: 19GP 1/2/3 -4 29PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 10:1 on
McArdle had a promising early part of the season as an energy line player before sitting out the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. The shoulder is apparently completely healed now, but he needs to stop fighting and play if he wants to have a long career in this league. The Panthers will qualify him and if he doesn't attempt to demand too much money, he'll be back to start on the third or fourth line.

Michal Repik
09/10 Salary: $0.688
10/11 salary: $0.600
09/10 Stats: 19GP 3/2/5 1 6PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 50:1 on
Repik is a promising player who has yet to break through to the big team, but will be back at camp to compete for a spot. He will probably start the season in Rochester and be first call-up.

Jeff Taffe
09/10 Salary: $0.500
10/11 salary: $0.600
09/10 Stats: 21GP 1/1/2 -1 4PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW
Odds: 100:1 on
No matter how his signing was sold to the fans last summer, Taffe was signed to be a veteran player in Rochester and an experienced call-up when needed. he will repeat the role this year. (Mike Duco) 09/10 Salary: $0.515 10/11 salary: RFA 09/10 Stats: 10GP 0/0/0 -3 50PIM 0PP 0SH 0GW Odds: 50:1 on Duco has some promise as an energy player but is not ready for the NHL. He'll be qualified and re-signed to play in Rochester.

Craig Weller
09/10 Salary: $0.625
10/11 salary: UFA
09/10 Stats: 0GP
Odds: 20:1
Weller is a career minor-league player with stints in Phoenix and Minnesota. He was traded with Bitz and a second-round pick from the Bruins. He was one veteran too many in Rochester late last season and had to be loaned to another team. He'll likely not be back.