On Monday, June 7, the Florida Panthers announced that they have signed 2020 first-round pick Anton Lundell to his three-year, entry-level contract. This paves the way for the 19-year-old Finnish forward to make his North American debut. But what does this mean for the Panthers?
During his 2020-21 campaign, Lundell proved he could potentially compete for a spot on the NHL roster this early, scoring 16 goals and 25 points in 26 games for HIFK of Finland’s Liiga. On the international stage, he put up an astounding six goals and 10 points in seven games in the IIHF World Junior Championship. He is also just now coming off of a silver medal finish in the IIHF Men’s World Championship where he scored four goals and seven points in 10 games.
With Lundell proving he can play against NHL-caliber players at the international stage, he now has the chance to be an additional piece to the Panthers’ roster at the ripe age of 19.
How Lundell’s Signing Affects Florida’s Offseason Plans
With Lundell now on the books and on his way to Sunrise, the Panthers can now shed unrestricted free agent center Alexander Wennberg’s $2.25 million cap hit by letting him walk in free agency. With Lundell on his $925,000 entry-level deal, this saves Florida $1.35 million in a year where it’s desperately needed.
With the Panthers needing to re-sign captain Aleksander Barkov in the offseason, Lundell’s arrival gives Florida a roster spot occupied by a cheaper player, so the team can shed cap to retain their superstar. Not only does his arrival save Florida cap space, but he also is exempt from the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft. This allows Florida to feel more comfortable with losing a forward like Noel Acciari or Frank Vatrano to the Kraken if they do choose to go that route.
This could make Florida less inclined to surrender its first-round draft pick in order to make Seattle avoid taking one of the two forwards and instead save it for a different trade or keep it, allowing more cap space to be shed to make room for Barkov’s raise in 2022.
What to Expect From Lundell in Sunrise
For a player of Lundell’s skillset, it could translate pretty seamlessly to the NHL game. He’s a player who’s able to make the right reads on a defense and he possesses a wicked quick release on his wrist shot, making him a solid offensive player to begin with. Granted, it may take time for him to get adjusted to the NHL game, but his track record proves that he will be just fine.
Lundell proved his worth playing against NHL-caliber players in the IIHF World Championship with Finland. During the tournament, he ranked 12th in goals and 14th in points, leading a Finland team that won the silver medal in both categories.
Granted, the quality of NHL talent that was there didn’t boast some of the stars like in years past, but Lundell was still the best player on a team that went toe-to-toe with some quality NHLers, such as the likes of Team USA’s Conor Garland and Team Canada’s Andrew Mangiapane.
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In a full 82-game season, barring hiccups in the development process, Lundell could add 15-20 goals and 40 points to the Panthers lineup and could contend for the Calder Trophy. With his dynamic scoring ability and knack for knowing where to be, the rookie’s arrival adds a whole new element to Florida’s lineup.
Granted, the learning curve is tough for some European players, such as Kaapo Kakko, who has only put up 19 goals and 40 points in his first 114 NHL games, but Lundell’s offensive skillset translates very well to the North American game. His knack for finding the right areas on the ice, making the right plays, and his wicked wrister all seem to point to positive things heading into the 2021-22 season.
Colby Guy is a writer for the Florida Panthers department here at THW. He’s a senior at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a football contributor, social media contributor and photographer for FAU Owls Nest.
Previously, Colby has written for FanSided as a New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators writer. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for FAU’s University Press. You can find him on Twitter at @ColbyDGuy.