On Sept. 14, the Florida Panthers announced that forward Jamie McGinn underwent back surgery and will be out of the lineup indefinitely. McGinn brought veteran experience to a team whose offseason acquisitions were designed to add depth. With this plan now taking a step backwards, what does this injury mean for the Panthers and who could be his possible replacement?
McGinn’s Role In Florida
The 2017-18 season was McGinn’s first with the Panthers. After signing a three-year, $10 million dollar contract, the Panthers acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes to add support to the young forward group. At 30 years old, the Ontario native brought over 600 games of NHL action and leadership with him to the locker room.
At six-foot-one, 205 pounds, McGinn’s large frame added net front presence to the Cats lineup and in turn, he tallied one of his best seasons in recent memory. With 13 goals and 16 assists, the new Panther forward upped his point total by 12 from his previous season and his most points since the 2013-14 season.
Although his production increased, his numbers were still not up to par for a typical second line player. Furthermore, his stats are most likely a byproduct of the time he spent with Vincent Trocheck, with almost 400 minutes spent on the ice together. Playing with an All-Star caliber player such as Trocheck likely inflated McGinn’s numbers.
Because of his struggles on the second line last season and the addition of Mike Hoffman, I expect McGinn to drop down to the third line, as I discussed in a recent article, and help the young center, Henrik Borgstrom, transition into the league. However, with McGinn’s return nowhere in sight, the Panthers will need to look for a possible replacement for the 10-year veteran.
Whether it’s young talent or seasoned vets, the player that succeeds McGinn will play a vital role in the team’s strategy throughout the year. The now-injured forward played just under 14 minutes per game last season and saw significant action on the power play. With this in mind, the player designated to fill his absence will be influential in how the Panthers fare this season.
In their most controversial move of the offseason, the Panthers signed former Calgary Flame, Troy Brouwer, to a one-year contract worth $850,000. At the time, the signing was poorly received by the fanbase and many people questioned why general manager Dale Tallon would add a struggling veteran to the roster, taking an opportunity away from some of the younger talent.
With the report of McGinn’s injury coming just two weeks later, the signing began to make a little more sense. Brouwer is a large, experienced forward who uses his size in the middle of the ice, similar to McGinn. Brouwer was also made aware of the injury when he signed, making it clear that Tallon made the deal with hopes that he could be a suitable replacement for McGinn.
Troy Brouwer said Dale Tallon told him about Jamie McGinn’s back issue before he signed with #FlaPanthers … so, appears they were waiting to see if it needed surgery – which he did have. pic.twitter.com/YfKrFmuoYC
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) September 14, 2018
Whether the Panthers decide to go with Brouwer as the replacement or not is yet to be seen. With one of the strongest prospect groups in the league, many talented players should see this as an opportunity to climb up the ranks.
Current roster players such as Denis Malgin, Jared McCann, and Maxim Mamin look to this season as a chance to permanently ingrain themselves into the Panthers lineup. Malgin and McCann showed great improvement last year but have yet to earn a consistent role on the team. While Mamin played in 26 games last season, he is looking to land a full-time roster spot.
Owen Tippett is only 19, but with a shot like his, sneaking onto the roster isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. With his smooth skating ability and a knack for scoring, being placed on the third line may be the perfect fit. However, all the stars would have to align to see “the red rocket” break through this season. Although, with a strong showing at camp, along with McGinn’s recovery, the Panthers may be forced to usher him in sooner rather than later.
Youth vs. Veterans
McGinn is expected to miss months of action, and although it is never enjoyable to see a player miss action due to injury, this situation creates opportunity for others to grow within the Panthers organization. As the league navigates toward younger, faster skaters, it will be interesting to see if the Panthers follow suit with the rest of the league and test their youth or will the 33-year-old Brouwer take the reigns?