Where Are They Now? Discarded Panthers abound around the NHL
Taking a look at some of the players the Cats have let go or traded during the Tallon era.
The Florida Panthers have seen a massive roster turnover since Dale Tallon's takeover. Remarkably, a 20/20 hindsight view of the roster moves shows nothing short of fantastic decision making. Here, then a look at where some of Tallon's better subtractions are now and what they have accomplished since leaving the Cats:
1) Colby Robak: Traded this season to Anaheim for a conditional draft pick and AHL defensemen Jesse Blacker, in what many considered a favor to the long serving defenseman to get him out of the press box, Robak appears to be in the same situation in Anaheim. He has played only 4 games with the Ducks and has no points.
2) Tom Gilbert: Gilbert left the Panthers in free agency last summer and signed with Montreal. After posting a massive Corsi and 25 assists playing with Brian Campbell last season, Gilbert has been a big disappointment for the Canadiens. In 38 games, he has 2 goals and 5 assists. Campbell was likely on the aging D-man's Christmas card list this year.
3) Shawn Matthias: Matthias was long thought of as a top notch prospect with size and speed. Panther fans waited a long time but only saw small bursts of offensive output from the 6'4" center. Matthias was part of the trade that brought Roberto Luongo back to Sunrise in the 2013-14 season. Since his trade, Matthias has played 54 games (at the time of this writing) for Vancouver and has put up 19 points, including 10 goals (a .18 goal-per-game rate). Luongo on the other hand, has played tremendously for the Cats, and the Panthers depth at center is the envy of much of the league.
4) Jacob Markstrom: Markstrom was the "goalie of the future" for the Panthers, but his play never showed anything but a lack of NHL readiness. He was the other player moved in the Luongo deal in the 2013-14 season. Markstrom is still young, but he has played only 4 games for the Canucks, posting a .868 save % and 3.00 GAA. On the other hand, he has put up a 1.91 GAA and .932 SV% in Utica of the AHL this season. Markstrom may still have the NHL in his future, but the re-set button looks like it had to be pressed.
5) Kris Versteeg: Versteeg was part of high flying top-line for the Panthers in their unexpected playoff appearance back in 2011-12, but injuries limited him in subsequent seasons. When he finally returned in 2013-14, his play showed a lack of effort and a massive number of turnovers. Word from inside the Panthers was that he was also a big thorn in Coach Kevin Dineen's side. Versteeg was moved to the Blackhawks for Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen in December of 2013. Since then, he was again recently injured. He has played 97 games for the 'Hawks and netted 19 goals and 56 points (a .19 goal-per-game rate). To be fair, Versteeg has had a good season (until his injury) with the Blackhawks, although it should also be noted that he has been playing much of that time with Patrick Kane and Brad Richards, both of whom could make a star out of anyone as Kane, especially, draws defenses to him like flies to poop. Versteeg spent much of last season's playoff run in Chicago in Coach Q's doghouse and as a healthy scratch. Hayes, on the other hand, has 11 goals in 29 games this season, compared with Versteeg's 9 goals in 34 games. Olsen has been very steady on the blue line and has added some much needed offense at times as well.
6) Jack Skille: Anyone who has read my prior posts knows I am a big fan of this human wrecking ball. Skille throws the body around and uses his speed well. But after not being re-signed by the Panthers in 2013, he moved over to Columbus. He ultimately spent the season bouncing between the NHL and AHL for the Jackets before getting a full time role in the playoffs. Jack signed with the Islanders, but was re-acquired by the Blue Jackets this season. Since leaving he has played 50 NHL games and contributed 11 points, 9 of which were goals (a .18 goals-per-game rate). He has also dealt with injuries, further limiting him. Skille has been a 4th line energy wing for Columbus.
7) Stephen Weiss: Weiss was the face of the long struggling Panthers for too many years, and was loved by the majority of Cats fans. Still, the manner in which he left during free agency in 2013 called into question both the team and Weiss, as one side claimed no offer was made, while the other claimed surprise at his signing in Detroit. Nonetheless, it is now resoundingly agreed upon that Detroit vastly overpaid for this center's services. Weiss has been more injured than not, and has only managed 43 games in one and a half seasons for the Wings. He has contributed 16 points and 7 goals for Detroit in those games (a .16 goals-per-game rate), with the majority of his points coming in a small stretch of healthy play this season. Meanwhile, the Panthers have become very strong down the middle of the ice.
8) Mike Santorelli: Santo had one very productive season with the Panthers, and than showed up only in small stretches before claiming a spot in the press box for large periods of time. Finally, in April of 2013, he was claimed off of waivers by the Winnipeg Jets. That summer, he would sign as a free agent with his hometown Canucks, and have a moderately productive season under coach John Tortorella. This past off-season, Santorelli signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since leaving the Cats he has played in 99 NHL games, potting 19 goals and 54 points (a .19 goals-per-game rate). He has contributed 25 of those points in 40 games for the Leafs this season, a very respectable .62 points-per-game rate. At the ripe age of 29, Santo seems to have found moderate consistency as a 3rd line wing.
9) Keaton Ellerby: A 1st round pick of the Panthers (10th overall) in 2007, Ellerby was dealt for a 5th round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings during the 2012-13 season. Since then, Ellerby played 35 games with the Kings, contributing 3 points before being waived. Winnipeg snatched Ellerby off waivers and he has played 51 games for the Jets, contributing 6 points. Not much to say here other than, "wow" did the Panthers ever used to draft poorly.
10) Jason Garrison: Strike two on the Brian Campbell list. Garrison left the Cats in free agency in 2012 to sign with his hometown Vancouver Canucks for truck loads of money. This past off-season, Garrison was traded to Tampa Bay. Garrison has played 166 games since leaving the Panthers and contributed 66 points and 18 goals. His goal totals have been a big disappointment for those that signed him, as Campbell's feeds made the "Garry-bomb" a prolific scorer from the blue line. Garrison has been steady, but not outstanding.
11) David Booth: Booth was a surprise producer for the Panthers on the offensive side of the puck before concussions took their toll. Returning in the 2011-12 season, Booth's failure to produce goals, and proclivity for turnovers led to a surprise early season trade that sent the wing to Vancouver in exchange for Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson, both of whom became major contributors for the Panthers playoff run that season. Booth spent the next two seasons dealing with recurrent injury problems and strange incidents involving hunting. This off-season, he signed as a free agent with the Maple Leafs, where he has played 19 games with one goal and one assist. The bloom is definitely off the rose, if you will. In total, since leaving the Panthers, Booth has played 159 NHL games, with 53 points, 27 of which were goals (a .16 goals-per-game rate).
12) Ryan Carter: Remember Ryan? You really shouldn't, as he only played 19 games for the Panthers after being acquired in a trade for Corey Stillman from Carolina. Carter was claimed off waivers by the Devils in 2011-12, and has gone on to play a 4th line role for New Jersey and now Minnesota (where he is from). Since leaving the Panthers Carter has played a strong energy role in 205 games, putting up 44 points.
13) Bryan Allen: Allen played almost five full seasons with the Panthers before being traded late in the 2010-11 season for Sergei Samsonov. Since his trade, Allen has played the majority of his time in Anaheim before being dealt this season to Montreal. He has played 221 games since his trade, with 47 points in that time, but Allen was never known for much offensive contribution. He has continued to be a stout defender, although he has dealt with numerous, limiting injuries. But, time catches everyone and Allen may have reached the end as he was recently waived by the Habs.
14) Michael Frolik: Frolik was one of the first trades that Dale Tallon made as the new GM of the Panthers. It was essentially a trade with the Blackhawks for Jack Skille, David Pacan, and Hugh Jessiman in February 2011. Frolik may be the most successful of all the jettisoned Panther players, as he was an integral part of the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks penalty kill in 2013. However, the cap restricted Hawks dealt Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets that summer at the draft, where he remains to this day. Since leaving the Cats, Frolik has played 257 games, with 96 points and 34 goals. He has played 40 of those games this season and amassed 20 points, for a half point-per -game rate.
15) Nathan Horton: Horton is without question the second most successful Panther player traded away by the team. He contributed to a Stanley Cup in Boston as a first line wing, producing on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck before strangely moving away from Beantown to get out of the limelight. Horton would be the most successful of the former Panthers if not for a tragic debilitating back injury that has seemingly ended his young career. He was traded by his own request in 2010, along with Gregory Campbell, to the Bruins, for Dennis Wideman and Boston's first round pick (which was later exchanged with Los Angeles) and a 3rd round pick (used on Kyle Rau). He has played 205 games since leaving, and contributed 126 points, or .61 points-per-game.
16) Gregory Campbell: Campbell also found success after leaving the Cats as a part of the Horton trade in 2010. Campbell has been a steady 4th line center for Boston, and is revered for playing out a shift on a broken ankle in the playoffs. He has played a whopping 323 games since leaving, and contributed 60 points. However, like Bryan Allen, Campbell was never expected to be a point producer. Instead, he has been a steadfast energy player who only now is considered past his prime.
17) Chris Higgins: Another very successful former Panther is Higgins, who has played for Vancouver since being dealt in 2010-11 for a 3rd round draft pick and Evan Oberg. The draft pick exchanges continued between the two teams. Higgins has been a steady contributor for the Canucks, playing in 242 games, and contributing 119 points (a .49 point-per-game rate).
18) Keith Ballard: Ballard recently discussed retirement after another unfortunate concussion, all of us here at LBC wish him a speedy recovery and well-being. Ballard was traded to Vancouver in a deal that included Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, and a draft pick that turned into Quinton Howden. he has played 207 games since his trade, for the Canucks and his hometown Wild, and he has contributed 54 points in those games. He was much criticized and even ostracized in Vancouver, but his play has been steady and the criticism was never fully warranted.
19) Rostislav Olesz: The best for last. Olesz was drafted 7th overall by the Panthers in 2004 and despite never playing a full slate of NHL games per season, was signed by then GM Jacques Martin in 2008 to a 6-year deal worth $3.125 million per year (a heady sum at that time). Olesz never turned into an even decent player and his contract was considered unmoveable. Enter Dale Tallon, who pulled off the move I will forever worship him for. He traded Olesz and his entire contract to Chicago for an actual 1st line player who has consistently made all those around him better, including Aaron Ekblad this season, and several stars on this list: Brian Campbell (no matter what is going on with the power play - he is still making those around him better at 5 on 5).Olesz would go on to play 6 games for Chicago with no points. His contract was buried in the AHL, and he suffered a knee injury in 2012-13. He was bought out by the 'Hawks and actually got signed by Pete DeBoer and the Devils in 2013-14. He played 10 games with the Devils and actually had 2 points before he left forever to return to Europe. He represents the darkest of the old regime, as well as some of the brightest of the new.