Views from the Press Box with Dan Weiss

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Whether you believe Friday the 13th is lucky or unlucky, one thing is for certain: we’ve hit the “dog days” of the hockey off-season. Most NHL teams have wrapped up their first plunge into free agency, and now will take a step back and let the market dictate what happens with everyone else out there looking for work. Unfortunately for Rampage fans, that will probably mean a dearth of news over the coming weeks in regards to player signings, but I still expect the Panthers to make some notable additions to the roster before training camp opens in September. If you’re wondering about the Rampage needs right now, priorities 1A and 1B would be a veteran playmaking center to replace Jon Matsumoto, and a top-four defenseman that can contribute on the power play. Like everyone else though, we’re all stuck in the proverbial waiting game.

The Panthers weren’t completely quiet this week signing veteran forward and notable AHL Western Conference player Andre Deveaux. Deveaux spent much of last season with the Connecticut Whale where he collected 20 goals, 40+ points, and 150+ penalty minutes for the second consecutive season following a 23-23-46 and 194 PIM effort in Chicago the year before. He does have a bit of a history with the Panthers, though maybe not for the right reasons. While playing for the NY Rangers in a game against Florida last November, Deveaux delivered an elbow to the head of Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann and was later suspended three games for the hit. Deveaux was born in the Bahamas and is a veteran of 476 AHL games, and definitely continues a trend of the Panthers adding more weight and muscle along the wings following the signings of George Parros and J-F Jacques.

The Panthers concluded their Prospect Development Camp last week and forward Anthony Luciani was a name that kept being brought up. Undrafted, Luciani signed a three-year entry level deal with the Panthers at the end of the 2010-11 season, and spent a majority of his rookie year in ECHL Cincinnati where he had 26 goals and 49 points in 54 games. Luciani will likely get a long look during Rampage training camp (as will his fellow Cyclones’ teammates from last season Jonathan Hazen and Garrett Wilson) in hopes he can replace some of the scoring void created by the departures of Matsumoto, Bill Thomas, and Bracken Kearns. One player who will not be either the Rampage or the Panthers next season is forward Nick Bjugstad. Florida’s first round pick in 2010 is heading back to the University of Minnesota for his junior season where he will play once again with fellow Panthers prospect Kyle Rau.

NHL free agency is unfortunately not just restricted to North America. Several AHL players, including many that have worn the Silver and Black in the past, are taking their talents overseas to Europe in search of greener pastures and shorter playing schedules. Tim Stapleton became the latest notable free agent to sign in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) agreeing Wednesday to a deal with Dinamo Minsk. Stapleton spent his first full season in the NHL last year after toiling in the minors for many moons, and posted nice totals of 11 goals and 27 points in 63 games with the Winnipeg Jets. He’ll likely be remembered for his overtime game-winner March 23 against Washington that kept the Jets faint playoff hopes alive and prevented the Capitals from gaining ground on the Panthers in the Southeast Division title chase. Other former Rampage players that are heading overseas include Peter MacArthur, Nick Ross, and Ryan Hollweg.

A big congratulations to the entire Rampage business staff who capped off a historic 10th anniversary season by receiving two league awards during the AHL’s annual Marketing Meetings this week in Rochester. The Rampage were recognized as the 2011-12 Ticket Sales Department of the Year and the Western Conference’s recipient of the Outstanding Fan Experience Award. The team set an attendance record for the fourth consecutive year and welcomed their 2,000,000 millionth fan to the AT&T Center in March. A big thank you goes out to the fans as well who are as much a part of the growing success of Rampage hockey in South Texas.

We leave you this week with some good news on the condition of Rampage all-time leading scorer Brett MacLean. MacLean, who suffered a cardiac emergency on July 2 while playing a pick-up game back in Ontario, is making great progress toward a recovery according to his mother. Details are still coming out regarding the episode, but most indications are that MacLean has two fellow players Jason Gallagher and Jason Silverthorn to thank for saving his life. Both performed CPR until the paramedics could arrive and take over. Gallagher, who admitted taking about 10 CPR and first aid courses in his life, told a local newspaper that everyone should take some basic training “because to save one life every 10 years, it’s all worth it”.

Views From The Press Box Archieve
Week 1: June 15, 2012
Week 2: June 22, 2012
Week 3: June 29, 2012
Week 4: July 6, 2012

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