MONTREAL - Marco Sturm admits he's a little surprised to find himself in a Florida Panthers jersey this early in the season.
Only six games into his stay in Vancouver, the Canucks traded Sturm and fellow veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson to the rebuilding Florida Panthers on Saturday for sniper David Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick.
"I had not been playing for a few games and they couldn't tell me why, so you kind of figure it but yeah, I was surprised going to Florida," Sturm said Monday as he prepared to play his first game for his new team against the Montreal Canadiens. "It's still early in the season, so you don't expect that."
Dale Tallon has not stopped tinkering with the Panthers lineup since he took over as general manager on May 17, 2010.
After his first year on the job, only two players remained from before the 2004-05 lockout — Steven Weiss and Booth.
After Booth was dealt to Vancouver, only seven players remain who were with the club before the NHL trading deadline last March.
That's definitely a turnover.
Tallon, the chief architect of the Chicago Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup team, is looking to shake up an organization that had made the playoffs only three times in its 17 NHL seasons, including missing out on the last 10 post-seasons.
Newcomers this season include forwards Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann and the currently injured Sean Bergenheim. Add to that group defencemen Brian Campbell and Ed Jovonovski and goalie Jose Theodore.
Rookie defenceman Erik Gudbranson is also with the club, as is goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom, who played two periods for the Panthers last season.
Now add Sturm and Samuelsson, who has stayed behind in Vancouver due to a visa problem and to continue treatment for an injury.
"I just want to make sure he's got time to spend with his medical guy," first-year coach Kevin Dineen said of Samuelsson. "I felt it was more important that he stay out there and continue with that than getting here for this game. We have a little window and I expect to see him soon enough."
Sturm signed a one-year, US$2.25 million contract as a free agent in July with the Canucks, but played only six times. Samuelsson earns $2.5 million. Both will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
Booth was on a long-term deal that pays $4.25 million per season through 2014-15, so the cost-conscious Panthers remain 21st in spending in the 30-team NHL, with $9 million in unused cap space should they decide to make further moves.
Tallon made the move after the Panthers were shut out in consecutive games by Washington and Buffalo, although they rebounded with a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders. Booth had only one assist in six games before the deal, but the Canucks were banking on reviving the career of a winger who had 31 goals in 2008-09 before suffering two concussions the following season.
"When a trade happens early in the season it's usually a message," Campbell said of the move. "I think people know what Dale said. He wants to win now, so if he can look to improve the team he's going to. And everyone else should be well aware of what their jobs are and what we have to do."
Sturm will start out on the Panthers' fourth line with Jack Skille and centre Mike Santorelli, a 20-goal scorer in 2010-11 who just returned from injury and will make his season debut against the Habs.
But Dineen said Sturm will be used in many ways.
"He's a really versatile player," said Dineen. "I've seen him play in so many different spots.
"He's played on the power play just recently in Vancouver. He's played on the penalty kill. He can play high or low in the lineup. That's the beauty of having a guy with that depth of experience. He really understands that whatever role we use him in that he's a valuable piece of the puzzle."
Sturm said he was told by the Panthers' brass they hoped to use his penalty killing experience.
"I did that a lot of that over the years, so I think that's probably the one area I can help," Sturm said.
Sturm and Samuelsson both started out in the San Jose Sharks organization, with Sturm moving to Boston in 2005 as part of the Joe Thonrton trade. Samuelsson had a brief, injury-riddled stint with Florida before moving on to Detroit, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2008, and then on to Vancouver, where he put together consecutive 50-point seasons.
In Florida, Sturm reconnects with Goc, his linemate on the German Olympic team.
Sturm is on his fourth team since he was dealt by Boston in December to Los Angeles. Washington picked him up on waivers on Feb. 26.
Sturm has had seven 20-goal seasons, but has been hampered by knee injuries in recent years. Last season he had five goals and 11 assists in 35 games.
"This year, I'm finally feeling really good," he said. "I don't have any issues at all and then this the trade came. But I've got to stay positive. It's a great opportunity again for me here, being on a good team. I know they had a lot of changes. I'm glad to be part of it."
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Sturm's name in the lead.