Less than three weeks after the Florida Panthers selected Aleksander Barkov with the No. 2 overall pick in the NHL entry draft, the team has inked their hopeful star of the future to a three-year entry level contract.
This statement comes from Panthers general manager Dale Tallon in a press release from July 15, 2013:
“We are pleased to have signed Aleksander. He is a mature, strong and skilled forward who plays well at both ends of the ice and strengthens our line-up down the middle. Aleksander is a creative and dynamic player who our fans will enjoy watching. We look forward to his contributions to our organization both on and off the ice.”
Barkov would add:
“I am very excited about signing my first NHL contract with Florida. I enjoyed meeting with the Panthers coaches, my future teammates and our fans at development camp last week. I will continue to train hard and look forward to competing for a spot on the team when training camp opens in September.”
I am sure Panthers fans are equally as excited, as they should be. Barkov will look to hopefully spearhead a line featuring him and Jon Huberdeau in the upcoming seasons for Florida. Huberdeau was the recipient of the 2013 Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s Rookie of the Year.
The Panthers also signed goaltender Jacob Markstrom to a two-year contract, per George Richards of the Miami Herald:
#FlaPanthers sign goalie Jacob Markstrom to a two-year deal; first year is a 2-way deal, second is a one-way…Mike Santos confirms
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) July 15, 2013
While Markstrom is a big Swedish goaltender and only 23 years old, there is no guarantee he’ll be the starting goaltender ahead of Scott Clemmensen next season. His 2013 performance wasn’t exactly enlightening, as he went 8-14-1 with a .901 save percentage and 3.22 GAA in 23 appearances.
Perhaps the Panthers could take a run at Tim Thomas or Ilya Bryzgalov, who are the two big name goaltenders that remain available on the free agent market. It is tough to imagine either of them seeing Florida as an attractive landing spot. The Panthers have made the playoffs just once in the last 10 years. That came in 2011-12 when they took the Southeast division crown.
Maybe the young talent makes the destination a bit more appealing to them. If the Panthers want to have success in 2013-14, they are gonna need a guy in between the pipes with a better save percentage than .901.
Thomas is coming off a year in which he elected not to play, just a full calendar year off of a Conn Smythe trophy-winning performance when his Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11.
Bryzgalov was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers after posting disappointing numbers in his two seasons with the club. His play in Phoenix with the Coyotes earned him a big contract with the Flyers after the 2011 season. Perhaps moving back to a warm city such as Sunrise could help him re-jumpstart his career. I mean, he did play well in the warm weather in Phoenix.
Only time will tell, but the future won’t nearly be as bright in Florida, despite the young talent, if they can’t put a solid goaltender in net.
Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.