We’re just under a month into the 2022 NHL free agency period and about a month and a half from the start of the season. As teams wind down their offseason business and start assessing what their team will look like for the 2022-23 season, now seems like a good time to look back at what the Florida Panthers have done so far this offseason.
The biggest move the Panthers made during free agency wasn’t a free agent signing but a trade. They sent Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, and a lottery-protected 2025 first-round pick to the Calgary Flames for Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round pick. The Panthers then signed Tkachuk to an eight-year, $76-miliion contract extension.
Florida lost a star in the 29-year-old Huberdeau, who had a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) last season, but they gained a younger star in the 24-year-old Tkachuk, who had a career-high 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in 2021-22, and he’ll slot in on the first line alongside Aleksander Barkov.
The team also lost Claude Giroux, Noel Acciari, and Mason Marchment via free agency. To compensate, they added Nick Cousins, Gerry Mayhew, Chris Tierney, Colin White, and Rudolfs Balcers to the forward group. Of those six, the players who saw the most action last season were the 25-year-old Balcers, who scored 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 61 games for the San Jose Sharks, the 28-year-old Tierney, who had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 70 games for the Ottawa Senators, and the 29-year-old Cousins, who posted 22 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 68 games for the Nashville Predators.
The Panthers lost a solid defenseman in the 28-year-old Weegar, who had a career-high 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 80 games last season. They also lost Ben Chiarot, Robert Hagg, Markus Nutivaara, and Chase Priskie via free agency. However, they signed Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and Anthony Bitetto.
The 35-year-old Staal brings over 1,000 games of NHL experience, including 71 with the Detroit Red Wings last season. He finished the campaign with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists). The 32-year-old Del Zotto has 736 NHL games under his belt, including 26 last season for the Senators, finishing with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists). The 32-year-old Bitetto has played in 197 NHL games, including 14 last year for the New York Rangers.
The Panthers are set in net with 33-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky and 21-year-old Spencer Knight, but they did lose Jonas Johansson via free agency and signed Alex Lyon. The 29-year-old has appeared in 24 career NHL games, including two for the Carolina Hurricanes last season. He has a 7-7-3 record with a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.18 and a save percentage (SV%) of .895.
However, Lyon posted an 18-7-3 record, 2.16 GAA, and .912 SV% in 30 regular season games, and a 9-3 record and .923 SV% in 12 playoff games for the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, who won the league’s regular season title and the Calder Cup as the league champion in 2021-22.
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Other than the blockbuster trade for Tkachuk and hiring new head coach Paul Maurice, the Panthers have been pretty quiet this offseason, mostly making depth signings to a team that didn’t lose a whole lot following last season’s Presidents’ Trophy-winning performance. They are hoping that Tkachuk is the key piece that will help them win their first-ever Stanley Cup title.
Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers/Columbus Blue Jackets and contributing to Morning Skate for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.