Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Florida Panthers - Rat Salad

Florida Panthers Prolegomena - Bouwing Out

The Florida Panthers decided not to deal star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline this season - Bouwmeester had been the object of speculation since he signed his one-year deal in the summer. The Panthers then proceeded to fall out of the playoff race, finishing tied in points for 8th but losing on a tiebreaker to the Montreal Canadiens. Had they made it, it would have been their first playoff berth since 2000, and a step in the right direction for a franchise that has been floundering since Scott Mellanby left. It is expected that Bouwmeester will leave Florida this summer.

We can analyze their decision to not deal Bouwmeester by way of an equation. This equation will not be solved here, it is far too complicated with too many variables to solve, but the equation itself should illuminate the way front offices should (but too often do not) think. Jay Bouwmeester is a tremendous talent. At the time the deal was thought to be made, the Panthers were in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, 3 points ahead of Buffalo and Carolina. So, what would we need to figure out whether we should keep Jay Bouwmeester? First, let's take Bouwmeester's remaining salary over the season. That's 18/82 * 4.875, or 1.07 million. Let's now assume that either the Panthers receive a series of prospects who would not play on their NHL team this season, or players with around similar salary to Bouwmeester (e.g. the Flyers had no cap room and would have had to clear space for Bouwmeester). For now, we are going to focus on the prospects - the other trades would add more complications.

The Bouwmeester Equation

Initial Equation: We figure out the probability that the Panthers will make the playoffs with Jay Bouwmeester on the roster. We figure out the potential playoff profits with Jay Bouwmeester on the roster - how many home games the Florida Panthers can expect to have with him on the roster. We figure this out by way of probabilities, e.g. if the Panthers make the playoffs 75% of the time, 50% of the time they have 2 home games, 25% they have 3, 10% they have 5, 8% they have 6, 5% they have 9, etc. From this equation we derive the amount of profit the Florida Panthers can expect to have in this playoff year. We can look at it like this:

(Probability of Making the Playoffs With Bouwmeester * Playoff Profit) minus Bouwmeester's remaining salary.

Now we have to look at the team if it traded Bouwmeester, like so (Probability of Making The Playoffs Without Bouwmeester) * Playoff Profit Adjusted For No Bouwmeester), and compare the two numbers. If the latter is greater than the former, the Panthers should likely deal Bouwmeester.

However, the Panthers aren't trading him for nothing - they are trading him for assets who can supposedly help them in the future. We therefore have to add a future component to the equation. The revised equation looks like this:

((Probablity of making playoffs with Bouwmeester * Playoff Profit) Minus Bouwmeester's Remaining Salary)) >=< (Probablity of Making Playoffs without Bouwmeester * Adjusted Playoff Profit) + Y(Increased Chance Of Playoff Berth Next Season(Potential Playoff Profit) + Z(Increased Chance Of Playoff Berth in 2011(Potential Playoff Profit) + and so on, with the numbers diminishing or becoming irrelevant.

Y and Z are coefficients; they are some number less than 1 to represent the time value of money - the Panthers would obviously value making the playoffs this season over making the playoffs next season, all things being equal.

Solving this equation is impossible without much more research and what result we would get is just an educated guess. Regardless, this method, or at least this line of thinking, is incredibly important in a salary-capped league - the Panthers cannot just approach the question instinctually. Ultimately, they thought their chances this season were too great to possibly spoil them - the Panthers needed some playoff games to jumpstart their dwindling fanbase. They likely made the right decision not dealing Bouwmeester, but got unlucky that they could not close the deal and squeak into the post-season.

How Do Things Look? Michael Frolik had an impressive rookie season, scoring 40 points. On the bad Czech side, Rostislav Olesz got injured and had a terrible season - Olesz seems to have made little progress since coming into the league and is now being paid 3.125 million. He could be trade bait for a team who loses out in free agency - the free agent market is weakest at center.

Can They Re-Sign Bouwmeester? The money's there, but the interest from Bouwmeester may not be. It is generally true that in a salary capped league, a player is most likely to sign with his current team than any given team - that team has already allotted the salary for him in the first place. It is not true, however, that the Panthers would be a favorite over the rest of the NHL to retain Bouwmeester - he has likely heard his last growl.

2009-10 Projected Lines




Any Young Players? The Panthers' AHL affiliate finished 29-43-8 and has little of value to offer the Panthers.

Free Agent Discussion

Money Under The Cap: 13.3 million
Money Likely to Be Spent: 8.3 million
Spots to Fill: 4

The Panthers were recently bought by something called Sports Properties Acquisitions, a Delillo-ian and faceless owner if there's ever been one. Sports Properties Acquisitions is a publicly-held company, so this isn't going to be a consortium looking to win at any cost - it's looking to make a profit at any cost.

Right Wings

Erik Cole (3/11) - Cole and Olesz together could be a physical force, but there is some risk signing Erik Cole, who is coming off a subpar season, is 30, and has had career-threatening injuries in his career. Of course, this was true of Gary Roberts in 1997 and he went on to play 12 more years.
Chad Larose (3/9) - Larose is a good player to have, but is likely to be overcompensated for a superlative playoff.
Jason Williams (2/5) - Williams always scores points wherever he goes, but it's hard to find what else he brings to a team.
Ales Kotalik (2/5) - Ales Kotalik is 30 years old? He's a placeholder type - he's got a big shot, he can theroetically play the point on a power play, and you know what you get with him.
Maxim Afinogenov (1/2) - Make good deal for the Russian born without hands. Afinogenov is an exciting player who unfortunately lacks finish - he is much more likely to go to the KHL than to stay in the NHL, but some team might be willing to gamble that he regains his 06-07 form.


The Florida Panthers will no doubt be looking at the Bouwmeester-Komisarek-Beauchemin-Ohlund-Spacek group written about in the Dallas Stars post.

However, for their depth, they need someone else. There's lots of other guys they might look at, but here's three of the most likely names:

Nick Boynton (3/7) - Boynton knows the system and was a +7 last season.
Karlis Skrastins (2/4) - Skrastins is a shotblocking master who gives solid defensive minutes.
Christian Backman (2/2) - Backman is a reclamation project - somehow he got paid 3+ million dollars last season. Supposedly he can help with a power play, he's the kind of choice a financially strapped organization makes.


Like Indiana Jones said to Sanjay in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: 'No backup goalies'. Tomas Vokoun has been injured in two of the last four seasons he's played, so Florida will need to find someone who won't torpedo the season starting 20 or 25 games.

Conclusion: The Florida Panthers have to start over again - Jay Bouwmeester is likely gone and there is no replacing him. Their team has some intriguing pieces, but ultimately they lack depth and don't have any in the minor league system. It's hard to see them becoming good, but it's also difficult to see them becoming bad. They should continue to stay between the 15th and 25th best team in the NHL.

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