Panthers Sign Vatrano to Extension

The Florida Panthers and Frank Vatrano have agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension that carries an annual average value of $2.53 million, Renaud Lavoie is reporting. Vatrano was set to be a restricted free agent on July 1.

An undrafted free agent from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Vatrano would get his NHL start with the Boston Bruins who signed him as an undrafted free agent. He’d score one goal in five games in 2014-15 with the Providence Bruins after scoring 18 goals and 28 points in 36 games for Umass-Amherst that same season.

The following year, however, Vatrano would explode for 36 goals and 55 points in just 36 games with  Providence. Scoring a goal-per-game is as rare a feat as it gets and Vatrano proved that he was a dominant scorer who could excel and put the puck in the net despite his smaller stature at 5 foot 9.

While Vatrano does have a sturdy frame at 200 pounds, his height was still an obvious red flag as far as making the NHL went. Still, his skill set appeared to translate effectively to the NHL level as he’d score eight goals and 11 points in 39 games in his rookie season in Boston.

Frank Vatrano Panthers
Florida Panthers forward Frank Vatrano is having a career year in his first full season with the team.. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

He’d follow that year up with another 10 goals and 18 points in 44 games with the Bruins the following season. Though there was progress as far as goal-scoring and point-production with, Vatrano’s role with the team was becoming obvious. The team would use him in a third-line capacity despite needing help in their top-six as Vatrano was effectively all offense without much defense to speak of.

An elite shot got him this far but the Bruins didn’t seem to have him in their long-term plans and looked very smart when they sent him to the Panthers for a third-round pick after he played 25 games (scoring two goals) with Boston in 2017-18. He’d join the Panthers and score five goals and eight points in 16 games last season before having his breakout campaign this season.

Vatrano Proving Doubters Wrong

In 59 games this season and being given a top-six role, Vatrano has not only stepped up his game but he’s also recorded his first career 20-goal season. With 20 goals and 33 points, Vatrano earned himself a nice bridge deal with the Panthers worth $7.59 million.

This gives both parties a chance to see if this season was just an anomaly or if Vatrano truly is the real deal. At the same time, it’s also vindication for Vatrano who stuck with it and never let anybody tell him he couldn’t make an impact at the NHL level. Whether it was the 31 teams who passed on him multiple times throughout the draft process, whether it was the Bruins who traded him early or any of the fans and media who questioned his ability, Vatrano has proven them all wrong to this point.

Skating on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, Vatrano has been given every opportunity to succeed in Florida. He hasn’t let them or himself down yet.