With the Maple Leafs descending upon south Florida for a game against the struggling Panthers Thursday, here's a question for the hockey-blogging world: What would you do, if you're Panthers' general manager/coach Jacques Martin, with Todd Bertuzzi? Bertuzzi joined the Panthers in that controversial five-player trade at last June's entry draft and cost Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo, their top player and in many ways, the face of their franchise. Luongo went on to stabilize the Vancouver Canucks' goaltending situation and he'll start for the Western Conference in next week's All-Star Game. Bertuzzi, meanwhile, played just seven games for Florida, before undergoing back surgery. He's back skating again and upping the pace of his rehab, with a view to returning to full practices in early February and perhaps make a return to the Panthers' line-up by mid-month. If that schedule holds - and Bertuzzi has no physical setbacks - it means he might get into three or four games before the Feb. 27 trading deadline. That matters only because Bertuzzi is on the final year of a contract that pays him $5.269 million per season. He'd managed a point a game for Florida while he was still playing and by all accounts, was enjoying the anonymity associated with playing in south Florida, one of the few places where he wouldn't be quizzed and/or reminded daily about the Steve Moore incident. It was Martin's predecessor, Mike Keenan, who made the Bertuzzi trade, but if the Panthers let him walk after this season as an unrestricted free agent, what kind of a message would that send to their fan base, as small as it is? For that matter, what sort of loyalty does Bertuzzi owe to the organization that made an important investment in him - not just in terms of the players they surrendered to get him, but also in the hefty salary that they're paying him this season? There had been no contact between the team and Bertuzzi's representatives about a contract extension through last weekend. In a perfect world, where logic and common sense prevailed, the two sides would sit down in the next month or so and frame a short-term solution to the quandary. The Panthers could sign Bertuzzi to a one-year extension. That would give him time to properly heal and then show the team what he's still capable of doing as a player - and demonstrate if, at the not-so-advanced age of 31, he remains one of the NHL's most effective power forwards. A short-term contract solution would also protect the Panthers. If he can't play at a high level any longer, they are not married to him for multiple seasons; and if he can, then maybe he can help them get to the playoffs next year and, if not forget Luongo, at least put that discouraging deal deeper in the rear view mirror.