With a lot of cap space and no state tax, it seemed like the 2019 off-season would be the one where the Panthers spent a lot. And they did. They got themselves a goalie, a top four defenseman, a scoring winger and a fourth line forward, using all but $781k of their cap space. With a new legendary Head Coach, 2019-20 could be the Panthers\’ year.
Additions: Sergei Bobrovsky, Anton Stralman, Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, Dominic Toninato
Subtractions: Roberto Luongo, Troy Brouwer, James Reimer, Riley Sheahan, Jamie McGinn, Jacob MacDonald
The long underrated Aleksander Barkov finally got recognition as a top 10 player in the league. He scored a career high 35 goals and 61 assists for 96 points in his first career 82 game season. He got Hart votes, finished top 5 in Selke voting again, and won his first trophy, the Lady Byng. He was named captain before the season started. Former Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau scored 30 goals for the first time, and a team leading 62 assists led to 92 points. Mike Hoffman had a great first season in Florida, with a career high 36 goals and 70 points. He is a free agent after 2019-20. In his second season since returning to the NHL from Russia, Evgenii Dadonov scored 28 goals again, this time with 70 points. Vincent Trocheck scored 31 goals and 75 points in 2017-18, but an ankle injury cost him 27 games, and he scored just 10 goals with 34 points. But Frank Vatrano helped fill in for Trocheck\’s offense. In his first full season in Florida, Vatrano scored 24 goals. Former sixth overall pick Brett Connolly finally broke out. In his last season in Washington, Connolly had career highs in goals (22), assists (24), and points (46). The offense gets a little murky after that. Henrik Borgstrom, a former first rounder, had 18 points in 50 NHL games, and 22 more in 24 AHL games. He is aiming to be a third line center. Noel Acciari was a part of the fourth line that was amazing in the playoffs in Boston\’s run to the Stanley Cup final. He had a career high 14 points, and scored two goals in the playoffs, while playing on the penalty kill. Denis Malgin had a bad season, with 16 points and a -10 rating in 50 games, after a promising 11 goal 2017-18 season. He is still just 22. After being a point per game player in the AHL, Jayce Hawryluk made his NHL debut, with seven goals in 42 games. Colton Sceviour took a step back, with just five goals in 59 games. Dryden Hunt scored 23 goals in 51 AHL games, and had 10 points in 31 NHL games.
At age 32, offensive defenseman Keith Yandle scored a career high 62 points, aided by a 53 assist campaign. But he was a terrible -17. The first overall pick in 2014, Aaron Ekblad has regressed from two good seasons to start his career. Sure, he has double digit goals in each of his five seasons, but he is yet to take his game to the level of other recent first overall picks. In the first year of an eight year deal, Mike Matheson struggled. He had 27 points again, but his -24 rating was a career worst. Anton Stralman enters on a questionable three year deal. Playing on a powerhouse Tampa Bay team, Stralman is a +41 over the last two seasons, with 35 points combined. Mark Pysyk had his worst season in Florida, with 11 points in 70 games and a -1 rating. MacKenzie Weegar had a career high 15 points and 64 games in 2018-19. Josh Brown played in 37 games, with two points. Ian McCoshen took a step back, playing in just 19 NHL games, with two points.
After not having a goalie with a GAA under 3 and James Reimer\’s .900 SV% leading the team in 2018-19, the Panthers went into the offseason looking to spend big on a goalie. Even after drafting top goalie prospect Spencer Knight in the first round, the Panthers signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven year, $70 million deal. The two time Vezina winner struggled early on with Columbus in 2018-19, but finished strong,with a .913 SV% and 2.58 GAA, and he led the league with nine shutouts. His .925 playoff SV% was lethal. Rookie Sam Montembeault figures to be the backup. He had a .894 SV% and 3.04 GAA in 11 NHL games last year.
Speedy winger Anthony Greco had a better fastest skater competition time in the AHL than NHL champion Connor McDavid. He made his NHL debut, and scored 30 goals in the AHL. Dominic Toninato has played in 39 NHL games over the last two seasons, but only two of them came last year.
Up and Coming
Owen Tippett has a great chance of making the team after scoring 33 goals and 74 points in 54 OHL games. Grigori Denisenko is in the KHL, and scored four goals in 25 games. Aleksi Heponiemi dominated in the Finnish league, with 46 points in 50 games. Brady Keeper played in one NHL game after signing from the University of Maine.
2019 draft class
Round 1, 13th overall: Spencer Knight
Round 2, 52nd overall: Vladislav Kolyachonok
Round 3, 69th overall: John Ludvig
Round 3, 81st overall: Cole Schwindt
Round 4, 106th overall: Carter Berger
Round 5, 136th overall: Henrik Rybinski
Round 5, 137th overall: Owen Lindmark
Round 6, 168th overall: Greg Meireles
Round 7, 199th overall: Matthew Wedman
Bob Boughner didn\’t seem to be the right fit as Head Coach, and after two seasons, he was dismissed, and went back to being an assistant in San Jose, where he was before getting the Panthers job. In comes legendary Head Coach Joel Quenneville, who has won three Stanley Cups with Chicago. One of those Cups was with Dale Tallon, the GM of the Panthers. Unless all of this offseason\’s acquisitions fail in their first year, Tallon\’s job should be safe.
Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman – Vincent Trocheck – Owen Tippett
Frank Vatrano – Henrik Borgstrom – Brett Connolly
Jayce Hawryluk – Noel Acciari – Denis Malgin
Extras: Dryden Hunt, Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle – Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson – Anton Stralman
Mark Pysyk – MacKenzie Weegar
Extras: Ian McCoshen, Josh Brown
Extras: Chris Dreidger
The Panthers are a good team, but they have had trouble historically getting over the hump and into the second round. They haven\’t won a playoff series since 2011-12. But this could be the year they get into the playoffs. I think they\’ll finish fourth in the Atlantic Division, and make the playoffs.