Litter Box Cats provides perspective on the Florida Panthers’ upcoming draft

Litter Box Cats has been a blog buddy of ours for a while now. As the Florida Panthers representative at Sports Blog Nation, Whale4Ever is an excellent blogger providing information on a largely under-represented NHL team. In fact, the blog’s been so strong that Hockey Barn deemed them their “rookie of the year.” Congratulations all around.

Make sure to follow Litter Box Cats as the team tries to sort out a possible Bouwmeester-less future.

1. What direction do you expect the Panthers to go in with their first round draft pick? Could it possibly be reactionary, based on the possible loss of Jay Bouwmeester?

Absolutely the Bouwmeester situation will affect the first Florida pick; no question it’s reactionary. If there’s a pick taken by the team in the first round at all. Assistant General Manager-to-Nobody Randy Sexton has been quite verbal about the draft, in a very modest sense; few hints about the direction it will take have been established, but he has * BIIG MOMENT COMING * at least met with the media and is opening a line of communication before unheard of during the Martin days. Bouwmeester’s status – and the naturally expected “Stealth Mode” of the scouting staff – has everything to do with Sexton’s vanilla responses. Can’t blame ’em for clamming. Move up? Move down? Trade the rights exclusively? Can’t fault their approach. Gonna be a Texas-sized steel-caged auction until the very last moment on Friday. How better to razz our friends in Philly? A lot is on the line for the organization …

2. Is there any chance the Panthers might gain another pick by trading the “negotiating rights” for Jay-Bo?

Yes, and then some, hopefully. But my guess is the club is no longer “rebuilding” in the traditional sense. They could most certainly gain another pick – or three. I don’t believe that’s the strategy. They need players for the big club now. We’re not staring at one of the finer free agent summers, but on the same note the Cats aren’t going to have to suffer through obscenely inflated prices for non-game-busting B-listers like Gomez, Drury, Smyth, and the like. It’s pretty cut-and-dried: the Sedin brothers – not your garden-variety pair – have set the market. Going back to the original question, my answer is thus: the Panthers will trade Bouw’s rights to the highest bidder before July 1st. We (the fans) are hoping to get a “name” roster player out of it, but only a sign-and-trade will accomplish that. My guess? It’ll be a big-time deal involving several players, probably goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

3. Looking back, tell us about some of your favorite Panthers drafting memories/moments. What were some of the franchises biggest moves and greatest “steals”?

The Pavel Bure thing was okay..but surrounded by no one, his consistent 50-goal seasons were fruitless.

Can’t honestly answer that question without going back to what was one of the greatest steals in league history, that of Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen coming to Sunrise from Long Island for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish during the 2000 offseason. Ironically enough, Luongo was involved six years later in what many consider the most lopsided deal in NHL annals (forgetting Francis, Samuelsson, Jennings for Cullen, Zalapski, Parker some years earlier. Pens fans remember it well. So do a select few in Hartford). As for “steals”? Almost everyone acquired by Bill Torrey/Bobby Clarke when the team was formulated in 1993. With a few exceptions, they melded into a tough group to play, culminating in the Stanley Cup Final runners-up for 1996. An otherwise forgettable roster, built on character and uncommon effort, which exceeded any sane hockey observer’s expectations. Until you looked at the individuals involved, and it became clear why success was so quick in coming. Whether by default or design, a lot of Panthers fans are very comfortable knowing Bill Torrey is back at the helm following the loss of Jacques Martin.

4. On the other hand, take us back to some of the team’s worst draft day decisions. Are there any specific moves or missed opportunities that really make Panthers ask themselves “What if?” type questions?

Leaving out what we’ve already covered, as far as draft picks have gone, no player has taken – or earned – the local wrath that Denis Shvidki or Petr Taticek has absorbed. We’re not on a Patrik Stefan level here, but only because Florida wasn’t picking overall first in those drafts. Given the remarkably paranoid and psychotic Florida “management” of those years (read: Keenan et al), it’s quite probable Stefan may still be playing in Sunrise. Or for the organization after it had been relocated to Sarnia on the back of a Taticek or Shvidki. Anyone can look up the details; the Panthers had a ridiculous number of busts in the early 2000s. Have at it.

The Litter Box’s Prediction for the 2009 Entry Draft: 14th pick is traded along with G Tomas Vokoun and contractual rights of Jay Bouwmeester to Philadelphia for Danny Briere, Joffrey Lupul, and 1st round pick in 2010. REALLY don’t like it, but that’s me guess. If it’s the best out there, take it.

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