All has been quiet this off-season down in sunny Florida. The Panthers have not made as big a splash in the free agent market as one would have thought.
Florida was expected to try to bolster their blue line through free agency with the likes of Paul Martin, Mike Green, and Andrej Sekera on the open market. Dale Tallon chose not to pursue any of them and appears to be confident that his team and his blue line will be just fine. With nearly $13 million dollars in cap space, and just Jonathan Huberdeau to re-sign, the Panthers could still look to free agency to round out their roster.
The Blue Line
With Aaron Ekblad poised for an excellent sophomore season the Florida blue line could be better than some think. Rounding out the top four with veteran Brian Campbell, Erik Gudbranson, and Dmitry Kulikov the Panthers should be set if those guys can carry most of the work load.
However, the Panthers lack a quality third pairing. Willie Mitchell, Alex Petrovic, and Steven Kampfer are all vying for the final two positions on the blue line. Mitchell, who signed a $4.25 million dollar deal the summer before last has yet to produce like a four million dollar defensemen. Christian Ehrhoff could be a nice addition on a one year deal. As long as his concussions are behind him, Ehrhoff would be an excellent addition to almost any blue line.
With quality free agent defenseman mostly off the market, the Panthers may have to stick it out and hope their blue line can outperform fan expectations. Dylan Olsen, who was acquired from the Blackhawks in the Versteeg deal, could also be competing for a job.
The Florida Panthers have an exceptional group of forwards. Jonathan Huberdeau, Alexsander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, are all ready to build off pretty good seasons as they look to launch this team into the playoffs. Jaromir Jagr, who is older than the Florida Panthers franchise, is ready for his first full season in the Sunshine state.
Florida was 25th in the league last season with 2.42 goals per game. That number will need to rise in order for them to contend in a goal happy Eastern Conference. The powerplay wasn’t much better coming in at 24th in the league, only scoring on 16.3 percent of their opportunities.
There are still plenty of goal scorers left in the free agent pile. Jiri Tlusty is one of them. Just two seasons removed from scoring 23 goals Tlusty finds himself without a job in the middle of July. Tlusty had a hard time finding his game in Winnipeg at the end of last season but possesses an excellent scoring touch. He is a low risk, high reward signing for Dale Tallon and the Panthers and could bring some extra fire power to a low scoring offense.