Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Panthers sign Nathan Horton

From the Palm Beach Post-

Right wing Nathan Horton, who only last February was rumored to want out of Florida, agreed to a six-year deal worth $24 million that, barring a trade, figures to make him a Panther through the 2012-13 season. The final three years of the deal feature a no-trade clause.

Horton made $1.1 million last season, when he finished second in team scoring with 31 goals, 31 assists and a plus-15 rating.


Horton joins defenseman Bryan Allen in signing lengthy contracts this off-season. Allen, 26, signed a five-year, $14.5 million extension just last week. Martin has said he hopes to do similar deals with Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester.

Retaining Horton and Allen were vital if the Panthers were ever going to become a good Hockey team. It is equally vital that Weiss and Bouvmeester get signed. The team still needs a goaltender though. Eddie Belfour is old and the other goalies aren’t very good at all.

The NHL draft is tonight. Palm Beach Post Hockey blogger Brian Biggane writes-

With Jean-Sebastien Giguere re-signed to a four-year deal in Anaheim and Manny Fernandez apparently headed for Boston, Ducks backup Ilya Bryzgalov has emerged as the Panthers’ best trade option heading into NHL draft weekend.

Anaheim GM Brian Burke as much as said he’s willing to listen to offers. At the Giguere press conference, his comment was, “Ilya Bryzgalov has clearly established that he is capable of starting in the NHL. I expect him to ask me to find him a new home.”

Panthers GM Jacques Martin reiterated Thursday that he “expects” to re-sign Ed Belfour. While he could be sincere, that also could very easily be a case of not wanting to tip his hand.

What would Anaheim want in return? With the money the Ducks have tied up, and having dealt away their first pick in the Chris Pronger deal, they’d likely be satisfied to get a couple of second-round picks. The Panthers have three of them.

If the Panthers can acquire Bryzgalov for one or two of their 2nd round picks, I feel it is worth it. The big Russian would pardon the pun, fill the gap Florida has at goalie.

Update- Florida has completed a deal for a goalie.

Columbus, Ohio — The Panthers traded a 2008 first-round pick and two second-rounders to Nashville for starting goalie Tomas Vokoun hours before the start of the NHL draft Friday.

The Panthers will give up their 2008 first rounder, a second rounder this year (58th overall) and can decide whether the other second rounder will be from this year’s draft or next.

Vokoun, 30, was 27-12-4 with a 2.40 goals against average, .920 save percentage and five shutouts last season. He was 1-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .902 save percentage in the playoffs. Vokoun, an eight-year veteran, missed the final four games of the 2005-06 regular season and the postseason because of a blood condition.

Vokoun is excellent but he came at a big price. The Panthers have 3 2nd round picks in 2007, so trading two of them is not a big impact. Trading next year’s 1st round pick is.

Which leaves me wondering if Florida will now keep Eddie Belfour. The Eagle played well last season, but he’s over 40 years old. In addition to Eddie and Vokoun, the team has Alex Auld and Craig Anderson. I don’t care for Auld and have seen very little play of Anderson. However Craig’s stats from his time in Chicago are NOT impressive. Which of these goaltenders does Florida keep? As funny as it sounds, The Eagle may be the last one I’d keep if I was Florida management. The team needs to look long-term, and at most Belfour has a couple of years left.

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