Harried Cats Head to Draft

Torrey leads a team without a GM, firm sale, or final offer for Bouwmeester to the table into Montreal

If the Panthers were a Peanuts character, they'd undoubtedly be Pigpen, ensconced in a perma-swirl of disaster and uncertainty. Forget for now who might be GM and whether or not the SPAC-Sunrise merger is bumpy -- this weekend's challenge for Hockey Jesus and World's Bravest Man Bill Torrey is the draft, which begins tonight at 7 p.m. in Montreal. 

Florida is positioned prettily enough, and if a deal for the rights to impending free agent Jay Bouwmeester -- which the Cats desperately need -- is reached, they might add 1st and 3rd round picks to the five they already own:  14th (first round), 44th (2nd round), 135th (5th round), and 165th (6th round). 

Florida are reportedly asking for a third round pick just to talk to their departing defenseman, and sources say there are five teams interested.  Philly, Edmonton, Dallas, Vancouver and Ottawa have made offers, according to the Ottawa Sun, though the Flyers' GM Paul Holmgren says the deal is "a little too rich for my blood" right now.  Ottawa is making noise and seem confident they'd have no problem signing him.

Whatever happens, the Panthers say they'll take the best player available to them when their first pick rolls around. “For me," said director of amateur scouting Scott Luce. "The pick that sets the tone for the rest of the first round that directly impacts our pick is the No. 8 pick...There are probably seven guys and you can probably put them in any order, at the top of the first round.  And then at the eighth pick, that’s when everybody’s list is going to fragment and you’re going to have guys that fall to you.”

What might they catch?  Defenders to watch include young Jared Cowen, who stands 6'5" and 218 pounds, Swedish-born David Rundbland, and USHL defenseman of the year, John Moore.  Moore seems to have particularly caught the Cats' eyes, though he'll need the longest time to develop of the three.

On the offensive front, Nazem Kadri out of Ottawa makes a nice, though smallish, pick, and fills a need at center.  The very solid Carter Ashton may still be dangling, and with a much larger frame projects well.

While the Panther's success at the draft depends more on Torrey than Bouwmeester, reaching a deal is a must.  Even the Panthers, who are used to such tricks, don't want to be Charlie Brown and find the football pulled out from under them.

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