“Rustyed” in Florida

Well…the Florida Panthers have suffered yet another year of disappointment with a very similar core. In recent years, they have had to unload big name players like Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester, and rumours are that Tomas Vokoun is going to be the next to leave town this summer.

It seems like their core is a bunch of young guys who every year are part of the “potential breakouts” list, but are never able to breakout. Now the time might be up for the guys who have been around for a few years and have been unable to take it to the next level; Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and Rostislav Olesz.

The blame for the continuous struggles of the Florida Panthers can be directed squarely at their early picks in the NHL draft the past few seasons. From 2001-2007, here are their ranks in the first round: 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 7th, 20th (lockout year), 10th and 10th. Weiss and Horton have at least shown some spurts of promise, but “Rusty” Olesz is the one I’m worried about.

He was drafted 7th overall in 2004 and was expected to be a real go to guy for the Panthers. In 2008, he signed a (drug induced) extension for six years, $18.75 million!!  He only made $2.1 million in 2009-10, but that increase yearly, all the way to $4.25 in 2013-14.

This would be an acceptable deal if Olesz had shown some sort of offensive comprehension in the NHL, but since the 05-06 season, his highest game total right now is 75 (could hit 78 this year if he plays the final three), but he has yet to surpass 30 points. He missed significant time in 07-08 and 08-09, and even with almost a full season this year, he only has 27 points.

When the deal was signed in the summer of 2008, he was coming off a 26 point performance in 56 games; which pro-rates to 38 points. Hardly the territory for such a lucrative, long term deal. The following season he missed major time again, only getting 9 points in 37 games.

Now, salary will go up to $3.1 million next season, on a team that will unlikely unload some talent. There is no chance that he will be one of those exiled because of his extremely overpriced contract.


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