The Florida Panthers made some progress on re-signing their restricted free agents this past offseason. One of those key pieces was getting back forward Eetu Luostarinen on a two-year deal worth $1.5 million per season. This last season helped establish himself as their fourth-line center with his regular season and playoff performances.
Luostarinen’s Career With the Panthers
Florida acquired Luostarinen on Feb. 24, 2020, by trading away their longtime second-line center in Vincent Trocheck to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for him, Eric Haula, Lucas Wallmark and Chase Priske. He was featured in eight games with the Canes, tallying one assist. He didn’t play his first game with the Panthers until opening night of the 2021 season, where he scored a goal and assisted on another. Talk about a great first impression. In his first season with Florida, he finished with only eight points (three goals, five assists).
The following season, after forward Noel Acciari missed a good chunk of time due to injury, he quickly became a great option for a fourth-line center as he ended his 2021-22 regular season with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) through 76 games. In addition, he finally got his feet wet in the postseason atmosphere that year as he played in 10 playoff games, finding the back of the net once and tallying an assist.
Luostarinen Will Be a Constant Plug-in for the Lineup With the Departure of Acciari
After Acciari signed a new deal with the St. Louis Blues, it was evident that Luostarinen would be the new fourth-line center for the team as he’s shown even was Acciari was injured. As a result of his two-way performance, it was easy to imagine a life without “Cookie”.
In addition, he’s been a key factor in the team’s penalty kill by going around 44% in the faceoff circle shorthanded and averaging nearly a full minor penalty of shorthanded time per game with 1:53 a night.
Luostarinen Will Be With Fellow Countrymen Throughout the Lineup
Luostarinen signing the dotted line on his new deal also shows that he found a home with his fellow Finnish teammates in captain Aleksander Barkov and forward Anton Lundell. In addition, the team has managed to keep around other Finns in some shape or capacity with players such as Aleksi Heponiemi.
Furthermore, they’ve also had a history of having big Finnish names, such as a former captain in Olli Jokinen, who used to own the record for most points in franchise history. Luostarinen may have found a much warmer version of Finland, especially with the massive Finnish community around the area.
Luostarinen Finally Got Much Needed Playoff Experience
This may seem simple, but the playoff experience he got last season was extremely beneficial to his development as a player, this includes some of the stories and teachings he received from his postseason veteran teammates.
With that in his head, not only will he retain the valuable lessons from seasons past, but he will be much hungrier to win his postseason dreams were crushed in a bitter way at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He and the entire Panther roster are looking to get back at their cross-state rival.
How Will Luostarinen Tackle His 4th Season?
Luostarinen enters his fourth NHL season on his first real NHL contract. He’s shown great strides in his development, which general manager Bill Zito has recognized.
Eetu is a selfless, dependable and cerebral player who plays with consistency each and every night…We are excited to have him back in our lineup for the upcoming campaign.Bill Zito on extending Eetu Luostarinen
The front office has their approval of him. He will be with a new head coach in Paul Maurice, which he should have no problem giving him something to show off every night. With that, the future is bright for Florida and even brighter for Eetu.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!