After finishing first in the Atlantic division in 2015-16, the Florida Panthers had a set-back in 2016-17, with 81 points, finishing 6th in the division. They received a really good season from winger Jonathan Marchessault, but lost him in the expansion draft. They also traded Reilly Smith to Vegas, and did not sign Jaromir Jagr. They replaced them with Radim Vrbata and Evgenii Dadonov. Let\’s take a full look at what the Panthers did.
Notable additions: RW Radim Vrbata, F Evgenii Dadonov, F Michael Haley
Notable subtractions: F Jonathan Marchessault, F Reilly Smith, F Jaromir Jagr, F Jussi Jokinen, F Tomas Vanek.
Here are my projected forward lines.
Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Nick Bjugstad
Evgenii Dadonov – Vincent Trocheck – Radim Vrbata
Jared McCann – Denis Malgin – Colton Sceviour
Michael Haley – Derek MacKenzie – Alex Grenier
Huberdeau and Barkov are locks for the top line. Bjugstad will most likely be the third line center, but I like the idea of him as a 1st line winger. Trocheck was an all-star last year. Vrbata and Dadonov come in, and can be playmakers on the second line. Malgin and McCann are still young, but they should be ready for the next step this year. Grenier and Haley, two new guys, are okay 4th liners.
Here are my projected defensive pairs.
Keith Yandle – Aaron Ekblad
Alex Petrovic – Jason Demers
Michael Matheson – Mark Pysyk
Yandle and Ekblad will definitely play together. Demers and Petrovic and Matheson and Pysyk will most likely play together. They will start in the AHL, but if there\’s an injury, prospects, Ian McCoshen, Reece Scarlett and MacKenzie Weegar will be called up to start.
These guys will definitely play where I have them. \”Bobby Lou\” is still a solid starter. Reimer wasn\’t a good signing by them last offseason, but will be a backup to Luongo this year.
The Panthers really got worse offensively this year. But, I like their defensive core, so I think they\’ll improve. They will improve to 87 points, and compete for the wild card. But, in a tough division, they will once again finish 6th in the Atlantic.