Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 2/28/12

By Bill Whitehead

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- My last 48 hours can be characterized in one word: madness. For me, much of it stemmed from covering the Daytona 500 and happily discovering that amidst all the hoopla surrounding NASCAR's biggest race, including celebrities, a presidential hopeful, too much moisture and some frightening fire, that two NHL players were poking around in the garage.

A pair of injured Bolts, Vincent Lecavalier and Marc-Andre Bergeron, had come over from Tampa after morning skate. I wanted to get their opinions on the Southeast Division, and after I learned they had left the infield media center, I had to step out and go find them. Leaving the media crush camped in front of Lenny Kravitz, Jane Lynch, Train, Mitt Romney and Kate Upton was tough to do, but I told myself I could always try to find Upton later.

Not surprisingly, I didn't find Lecavalier and Bergeron. On the day of the 500 it really is needle-in-the-haystack stuff in the bee hive-like garage. There was always the prospect of seeking out Upton again, but my attention soon turned to Monday and the anticipation -- and ultimately, minor madness --of the NHL's trade deadline.

The weekend had started off promisingly. Florida acquired Nashville Predators' PK and face-off specialist Jerred Smithson, a defensive forward, for a sixth round pick this year. Florida made an even more impressive move Saturday morning when it brought in skillful forward and shootout specialist Wojtek Wolski for defenseman Mike Vernace and a third round pick in 2013.

Some weren't blown away and were disappointed by the acquisitions. But Smithson has been solid in his two games, winning 17 of 30 draws (56.7%). The 26-year-old Wolski, however, was spectacular Saturday night in a late Raleigh rally, scoring the tying goal in Florida's 3-2 comeback win over Carolina. Oddly, Wolski, who participated in a bag skate Saturday morning before flying to the RBC Center, was the only Cat not to score in the shootout.

Despite the morning workout, Wolski was the best player wearing white for 60 minutes, creating scoring chances and showing off his creativity. If Florida hadn't had Wolski on the ice Saturday, would it have tied the game at 2-2 and eventually come away with two points in the shootout? Doubtful. And it's no knock on Michal Repik and Jon Matsumoto, who were sent down to San Antonio to make room. The presence of two veterans in a playoff stretch is just more valuable than youngsters trying to make an
impression.

Florida GM Dale Tallon closed the weekend by not playing the role of the evil genius on Monday and having to have his hand in deals as 3 p.m. approached. He added a pair of solid players who will likely be a part of next year's club -- Smithson for the intangibles, Wolski for the offensive ability and shootout prowess -- but the latter is an RFA who needs signing.

On Monday, Tallon didn't give away the farm of talented prospects he put together in two great drafts. Simply, he did nothing and stood pat. Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, Alex Petrovic and Rocco Grimaldi are still Panther possessions, plus pre-Tallon talents Jacob Markstrom, Colby Robak and Drew Shore.

Most importantly, another player is still Panther property -- Jonathan Huberdeau. While it was reported that no GM called Monday to inquire about the 18-year-old standout, they did in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Word was that everyone wanted Huberdeau, and why not? He has on-ice vision that he demonstrates in every dazzling pass, plus has the sniping ability and scoring touch that Florida sorely lacks.

While most Florida fans I've talked to and read in my timeline liked the idea of dealing for Rick Nash, Derek Roy or any of the Anaheim studs on the top line, no one -- to a person -- wanted to part with Huberdeau to get immediate help during these last 21 games. Tallon just isn't going to trade away Huberdeau, who generated plenty of excitement among fans in camp. On a Monday manic of little madness, capping off a weekend of personal craziness for me, Tallon stood tall and didn't play the role of the interloper, the wheeler-dealer, the riverboat gambler who was going to risk all of the hard work of previous drafts. Whatever the case, he had made his two moves
earlier and was fine with them.

Tallon was the sane one who wouldn't succumb to what little trade madness was lurking out there.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

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