It took some time, but the Florida Panthers finally accommodated Sean Bergenheim's trade request, dealing the quietly disgruntled forward to the Minnesota Wild. The Cats will get Minnesota's third-round pick in 2016 while the Wild will take the Cats' spot in the seventh-round that year. Bergenheim will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so Minnesota will have his services only through the conclusion of this season if they fail to re-sign him, making him, possibly, a "rental player."
Bergenheim joined the Panthers in the free-agent frenzy of July, 2011 after a very noticeable playoff contribution in 2010-11 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the Lightning's deep playoff run that season, he contributed 9 goals in 16 games, along with 2 assists.
The hardworking Finn played 62 games for the Panthers in 2011-12, a season which saw a pile of newly added free agents take the Cats to their first playoff appearance since the stone age. In 7 games against the New Jersey Devils, Bergy put up a team-leading 6 points on 3 goals and 3 assists to once again establish himself as a dependable playoff performer. His postseason numbers were in addition to 17 regular season goals he scored (as well as six assists). As the fates would have it, the relationship between team and player would turn sour after that fateful overtime loss to the Devils in game 7.
The positive energy of Florida's playoff appearance would be squandered by the lockout of 2012-13, and to make matters worse, Bergenheim would play two games in Europe before a groin injury sidelined him for the remainder of the lockout, and subsequent, shortened NHL season. The fireworks began soon after the injury was found. Bergy claimed the injury had been sustained while playing for the Panthers the season before and that he should be paid by the team while on inured reserve, while the team claimed this was not the case and he should not be paid or treated by their medical staff. A neutral arbitrator was brought in who ruled against the Cats- determining that the injury had indeed been suffered the season prior, while playing for the Panthers. The NHL squad was required to pay the Finn and assist in his treatment.
Things never really improved, relationship-wise after that. In 2013-14, Bergenheim would again play 62 games for the Cats, but that was after repeated clashes with head coach Kevin Dineen- who more-or-less let it be known that he was of the opinion perhaps Bergy should have been playing earlier than the timeline he established for a return. Dineen was later fired, and Bergenheim would end up with 16 goals and 29 points in 62 games, but also a minus-16 rating (for whatever that was worth).
Coming into this season, it was hoped by Panther fans that new ownership would have a fresh start with our diligent forward. Once again, nagging injuries would sideline Bergy for a game or several at a time. Still, he was noticeable when on the ice, and the advanced stats all showed that he (as he has most of his career) has a positive impact on possession. Nonetheless, Bergenheim ended up in Gerard Gallant's doghouse after the coach scratched him for several games, with one in particular where Gallant called him out for a lack of effort. This led to the open warfare between Bergy's agent and the team and ultimately his time in the press box and trade.
Bergenheim leaves the team after playing 39 games this season and contributing 18 points (8G/10A). In return, the Panthers get a 3rd round draft pick in 2016, but also give up a 7th round pick in that draft to Minnesota.
Bergy has nothing but fans in this market. We all liked his play and the majority were troubled by his relegation to the press box. The advanced stats show the same as the eye test: Bergenheim is a fantastic forechecker who causes turnovers and is relentless about attacking the net. He has a shoot first mentality that not enough Cats possess. He appeared to be a very hard worker who got results on the ice.
The flip side of the coin is that Gerard Gallant is well known as a players 'coach who has been loved by both the people he played with during his long career, and the professionals and amateurs he has coached. Over the summer, Jonathan Huberdeau reportedly told his teammates they were going to love Gallant (Huberdeau's coach in the QMJHL), as he was a true players' coach. Whatever happened between Bergy and management that led to a benching by this coach- who wants to win, we may never be privy to, but we should not assume (based on what we know of Gallant, and a "players' GM" like Tallon) that it was baseless. Maybe those details will someday emerge (and they are already afoot in rumors that will not be included in this article), but really it matters little for the deal is done and the team moves on with Vincent Trocheck and Garrett Wilson getting their opportunities.
We at LBC thank Sean Bergenheim for his time as a Panther. When we watched him play, he seemed to leave it all on the ice. We wish him well in Minnesota, except when they play the Cats! Returning to the Panthers, there is every reason to believe that Tallon and company can turn that 3rd round pick into something usable by the team. In the meantime, the movement to the team of tomorrow continues with the likes of Trocheck and Wilson, and perhaps next season, Connor Brickley and Rocco Grimaldi.