Thursday, October 21, 2021

Roy Bellamy Joins the Show - Episode 45

Listen to "Roy Bellamy Joins the Show - Episode 45" on Spreaker.

Roy Bellamy (@RoyBelly) of the Dan Le Batard show with StuGotz jumps in the ring with Alex & TJ after the Panthers downed the Big Bad Bolts 4-1 with Anton Lundell sniping his first career goal. We talk about the PP, PK, 5v5 lines, officiating, and once again barely talk about Crime & Penalties.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Your Predictions for the Florida Panthers Season

 I asked all of you Panthers fans to submit your predictions for the upcoming season and fill out my survey. We had nearly 50 respondents and they had some interesting projections for the season to come.

The sense of optimism in the Panthers' corner of the universe has rarely been this present, with all respondents rating themselves between 8-10 on the scale, and all giving the panthers an 80 percent chance or better of making the postseason. The median points projection for Florida was 106, with 103 and 104 being the most common responses. Still, a bit of humility saw most Panthers fans project their team to finish second in the Atlantic Division.

When it came to the rest of the league, most projected the Metro would be won by the NY Islanders, the Central won by the Colorado Avalanche, and the Pacific won by the Vegas Golden Knights. Colorado was the overwhelming favorite to come out of the West, while fans felt good enough about the Panthers to pick them as a plurality to come out of the Eastern Conference. 16 people picked the Cats to go all the way, with Colorado second amongst the Cup favorites with 13 votes.

In projecting Panthers statistical leaders, it's no surprise that Aleksander Barkov lead the charge. The new $10 million man received the majority of predictions for the Panthers' top points and goals scorer. Jonathan Huberdeau was picked to lead the Panthers in assists, while Radko Gudas was most commonly expected to be the team leader in PIMs. Most voters selected either Anton Lundell or Owen Tippett to be the breakout player of the season. The selections for the PIM category were definitely the most eclectic, with five different players receiving at least 3 votes.

In awards voting, Connor McDavid was a healthy favorite to win the Hart and Art Ross trophies, with Panthers fans giving hometown favorite Aleksander Barkov some recognition as well. Aaron Ekblad comes out of this poll the early Norris Trophy front runner, with Barkov also expected to defend his Selke Trophy and win it for the second consecutive year. Spencer Knight was picked as the Calder favorite against Anton Lundell (and every other rookie in the league), and Joel Quenneville was named the Jack Adams trophy front runner.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Quest for 82-0-0 - Episode 44

Listen to "The Quest for 82-0-0 - Episode 44" on Spreaker.

 2 down, 80 to go: Alex, Jacob, and TJ opine on Bob's huge start, the Sam Bennett hat trick, Lundell's first nhl action, The Duke, and Possible Gudas regression.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Florida Panthers Players and their Miami Heat Counterparts

I have been a die-hard Panthers fan for close to a decade, falling in love with the team the first time I ever attended a game in 2011. Since then, the Panthers have experienced pretty mixed results, but down south in Dade, the Heat have consistently produced a competitive team, and established themselves as a championship caliber franchise. We are beginning to see new general manager Bill Zito establish a similar, “Heat Culture” kind of attitude for the Florida Panthers organization. The Cats could be entering an era of unprecedented success.

My hope for this season, maybe more than for the Panthers to win the cup or go far in the playoffs, is for the team to become more popular in South Florida than ever. The dream would be to see them reach the same level as the Miami Heat, who have always been beloved in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward. So here is my olive branch to the novice hockey fans in South Florida. If you want to know who’s suiting up for your hometown team, here’s how I’d liken them to some past & present Miami Heat players. 

Aleksander Barkov is the Panthers's Dwyane Wade

The franchise. The captain. The lifer. Sasha. D-Wade.  The Heat stuck their neck out to draft Wade with a high first round pick, and the Panthers did the same with Barkov. Dwyane has Wade County, and Sasha has Barkov County. Wade was a gifted scorer, and no slouch on defense either; he holds the Heat franchise record for steals by over 700 the next-closest player, and was named to the NBA's all defensive teams three times. Barkov has the Panthers' record for points in a season, and is the only Panther to ever win the Frank J. Selke trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward in hockey. His penchant for stealing pucks is Wade-like, and his scoring touch is in the same category.

Jonathan Huberdeau is the Panthers's Goran Dragic

The facilitator. Huberdeau may have been drafted by the Panthers while Dragic was acquired in a trade, but both are gifted playmakers who came up clutch in the postseason. "The dragon" and "Hooby Dooby Doo" easily became fan favorites for their catchy nicknames and their fancy passing alike. Neither one is afraid of taking a shot when the time comes, forcing opponents to respect their scoring ability and opening up further passing lanes. 

Aaron Ekblad is the Panthers's Bam Adebayo

The Net Protector. Adebayo and Ekblad were both first round picks who have always been destined for greatness, particularly on the defensive end. Don't let their defensive acumen lull you into thinking they're pure shutdown players; both Aaron and Bam have plenty to add on the offensive end, too. The sky is the limit for this pair, and South Florida sports fans are optimistic that they can add some serious awards to their resume (Defensive Player of the Year, James Norris Trophy) very soon. 

Sam Reinhart is the Panthers's Chris Bosh

Bosh came over from a hapless Toronto Raptors organization to join Miami's newly formed big-three and compete for championships. The same is the hope for Sam Reinhart, who managed to shine even in the darkness of the Buffalo Sabres organization. Reinhart is clearly the third-best of the three best Panthers forwards, but rounds out a formidable trio that few teams in the league can top.

Carter Verhaeghe is the Panthers's Duncan Robinson

Robinson got his first real opportunity to prove himself in Miami, and quickly became a key part of the team's scoring punch. Verhaeghe was marginalized in Tampa before joining the Panthers on a cheap 2-year deal, breaking through instantly in the first year and becoming one of the Panthers' best goal scorers. Both Robinson and Verhaeghe have risen from the fringes to earn themselves a spot in the league, and a very nice payday.

Owen Tippett is the Panthers's Tyler Herro

The Panthers drafted Owen Tippett with a mid-first round pick in hopes he would quickly become the pure shooter to take their offense over the top. Herro was selected by the Heat with the same hopes, and in flashes, has shown the ability to light it up from long range. Both players have their proponents and their skeptics. It's easy to see the scoring ability but questions can come up about either's all-around game. This is set to be a make-or-break season for Herro and Tippett, and they need to prove they can score at a high level while rounding out the rest of their game, and allow their coach to depend upon them.

Radko Gudas is the Panthers's Chris "Birdman" Andersen 

The enforcer. Do not ever f*ck with these guys. Gudas lead the NHL in hits in 2020-21, and was always ready to mix it up with opponents who took some liberties. Andersen was a guy the Heat could count upon to fight for key rebounds, block shots, and turn defense to offense. Gudas’s thick beard and menacing scowl gives him the same fear factor that Andersen’s head-to-toe tattoos inspired for him. 

Patric Hörnqvist is the Panthers's PJ Tucker

Hörnqvist and Tucker are both physical, tough players who set the standard in their respective locker rooms. They lack elite offense skill but make up for it with tenacity, and dare I say, grit. As a key veteran presence in their locker room, Tucker helped last season’s Milwaukee Bucks reach the top and win the 2021 NBA championship. Hörnqvist won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, then entered a Panthers organization heading in the wrong direction and quickly changed the attitudes of everyone in the room. The Swedish winger’s presence proved hugely influential in a remarkable bounceback season for the Cats in 2020-21. 

Gustav Forsling is the Panthers's Dewayne Dedmon

The 2021 winner of the “Where Did This Guy Come From?” award. Forsling was claimed by the Panthers on waivers, while Dedmon was signed to a 10-day contract after not being on a team for 6 months previous. Both became key players down the stretch for their teams, and could especially be counted upon defensively. Dedmon and Forsling are both set to experience a career renaissance after breakout seasons in South Florida. 

Joel Quenneville is the Panthers's Pat Riley

These guys don’t take Ls. Riley and Quenneville are living legends, both with more titles to their name than almost anyone active in their respective sports. Their names carry immense gravity with them. And yet, neither ever settles. Quenneville is seeking his fourth championship ring as a coach; no other active coach can match the three he’s already won. Riley has one ring as a player, four as a coach, and two as an executive. These two have almost as much jewelry between them as the Kay outlet at Sawgrass Mills. Winning is in their DNA. Success follows wherever they go, and that’s what keeps the fans believing no matter what happened in the last quarter, period, game, or season.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Making Dollars and Sense of Aleksander Barkov's New Contract

Last Friday, Aleksander Barkov put pen to paper on a contract that tied him to the only team in the NHL he's ever played for eight additional years. To fans, Barkov's deal means the Panthers have an 8-year commitment to Barkov that carries a 10 million dollar average annual value against the NHL's salary cap. Fans need not think about the deal beyond those numbers and the contract's trade protection: a no-movement clause in the first 6 years, and a 16-team no trade clause in the final two. 

To Barkov and his agent Todd Diamond, those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath those numbers, Barkov and Diamond maneuvered in negotiations to ensure they maximized the specifics of this new contract. 

Pierre Lebrun of TSN was the first to disclose terms of Barkov's contract. What becomes immediately apparent is the huge signing bonus; 90% of the money owed to Barkov over the 8 years of the deal will be paid in bonuses. The contract is also front-loaded, with Barkov being paid more than the average annual value of the deal in years 1-4. In years 6-8, he will receive less than the $10 million average annual value. 

Front Loaded Contracts

In the 2020 return-to-play memorandum of understanding (MOU), new terms were established for contracts deemed as "front-loaded", one of which stating:

"under no circumstances may the stated Player Salary and Bonuses in any League Year of a Front-Loaded SPC be less than sixty (60) percent of the highest stated Player Salary and Bonuses in a League Year of that same Front-Loaded SPC."

When Diamond and Barkov decided they wanted a front-loaded 8 year deal, they would need to ensure the lowest amount Barkov would receive in a season was only 40% less than the highest amount he received in a season. Barkov's contract takes full advantage of all wiggle room granted under this new stipulation, as the $7.2 million he will receive in years 7-8 of this deal is exactly 60% of the $12 million he will receive in years 1-3. The MOU also restricts any year-to-year changes in the deal to 25% of the first year salary or less, so the contract needs to incrementally slide down to $7.2 million. 

Why would Barkov choose a front-loaded contract? There are certainly valid reasons to defer salary in the current NHL environment, but a dollar today is still worth more than a dollar will be even just one year later. Nerdwallet's inflation calculator suggests that a $12 million lump sum Barkov would be paid in 2022 would barely be worth more than $10 million in 2029, when the final season of Barkov's deal begins. While restricted free-agents are back-loading their deals and deferring their largest payments until the final years of those deals, they gain the additional leverage of a larger amount in the qualifying offer; this leverage is irrelevant to Barkov, who is an unrestricted free agent. 

Signing Bonuses & Taxation

It's already easy to understand why receiving payments in signing bonus, paid directly to players on the first day of a new league year (usually July 1), is preferable to receiving the same amount over the course of the year. But Barkov has additional enticement to place as much money as possible into signing bonuses. 

Athletes' salaries are taxed according to the locations in which they perform their work. This means that their income is only taxed at the rates used in the places they actually reside 50% of the time - because in the other 50% of the time, the players are "working" in a completely different area. This is commonly referred to as a "jock tax"

Jock taxes apply to NHL player salaries, but do not apply to any bonuses. As everyone should know by now, Florida does not charge its residents a state income tax. Barkov's ability to receive the vast majority of his salary in signing bonus allows him to protect millions of dollars from additional taxation. Capfriendly estimates that Barkov needs to pay a 40.79% tax rate on any salary he earns in a given season, but only 39.09% on any signing bonuses he receives. Over the course of the deal, Barkov's decision to receive his money in signing bonuses will save him between $1 and 1.5 million - in the first four years of the deal (the years with known escrow percentages), Barkov will save just under $800,000 by keeping $44.6 million of his earnings within signing bonuses. 


Anyone who follows the NHL closely has probably heard the term "escrow" quite a bit. It's not something that people refer to much in everyday life, so no one could be blamed for not knowing what it is. I'd best explain escrow as a "fairness fund". The NHL's most recent CBA dictates that 50% of all hockey related revenue ("HRR") from NHL operations will be given to the players via their salaries. Thus, if the league's salary structure is such that players are making more than 50% of what the league is generating in HRR, the league can withhold a certain percentage of all players' salaries and bonuses until HRR reaches the necessary amount. Once HRR reaches the requisite amounts and raises further, the league raises the salary cap maximum to allow players greater earning potential.

The amount of player salary that will be collected in escrow is clearly outlined in the 2020 MOU. In the past season escrow was at an obscene 20%, and this season it could be as high as 18%. This lead a number of high profile free agents to defer payments until the middle years of their new deals, avoiding losing large amounts of salary to these high percentages of escrow, which diminish in subsequent years. 

Escrow in the first season of Barkov's new contract (2022-23) will still be set at a relatively high 10%. But in the three subsequent years, escrow drops to 6%. While Barkov takes an early hit by losing $1.2 million to escrow in year 1 of his deal, the drop in escrow allows Barkov to cancel those losses out by receiving his payments as early as possible, taking advantage of the greater value that money has in the early years of the deal (prior to inflation in the later years). 

Barkov's true take-home income

After accounting for escrow and taxes, Barkov is estimated to take home approximately $6.5 million to $6.9 million in the first four years of his deal, and earn a total near $26.9 million over those years. Escrow figures are not known for the subsequent 4 years, but Barkov should earn at least another $20 million in that time, making the total take home of the contract somewhere between $45 million and $50 million.

Using Capfriendly's estimated figures, Barkov will have the second highest approximate take-home NHL salary in each of the first three years of his deal, with a different player taking top spot (Tyler Seguin, Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Point) each of those years. These players notably are not carrying any of the league's top AAVs; all reside in a United State without a state income tax. Like these players, Barkov might not have an AAV at the same level as the league's top paid players, but can take advantage of low tax rates to take home more money than nearly any other player in the NHL. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

What Are Your Predictions for the 21-22 Florida Panthers?

We want to know: what are your expectations for this year's Florida Panthers season? Whether you're an optimist or a pessimist, we want to hear your thoughts. Fill out as much of the survey below as you would like: all questions are optional. We will be publishing the overall results on Thursday morning here on