Panthers News & Rumors: Buyout Options, Driedger, & More

It’s been a crazy week in the NHL. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were bought out by the Minnesota Wild and Duncan Keith was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. As the Florida Panthers prepare for the Expansion Draft themselves, similar moves could be on the way for the Cats soon.

In today’s edition of ‘Panthers News & Rumors,’ we’ll look at the Panthers’ buyout options ahead of the expansion draft, Chris Driedger’s reported interest from the Seattle Kraken and what that means for the expansion draft, and Florida’s Name, Image, and Likeness program for college athletes in South Florida.

Buyout Options

While the news about Suter and Parise surprised many, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweeted that in exchange for expansion considerations and side deals ahead of the expansion draft, Seattle’s asking price is considered to be “exorbitant.” This could drive the buyout market, as players with no-movement clauses (NMC) are required to be protected, and teams might prefer to buy them out instead. Florida has two potential candidates in this regard: Sergei Bobrovsky and Keith Yandle.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bobrovsky has five years left on his current contract with a $10 million cap hit per season. Given his recent struggles and benching during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s clear he hasn’t lived up to the massive deal he signed with Florida in 2019, but much would it cost the Panthers to buy out his deal?

According to CapFriendly, Florida would be on the hook for a $41 million total cap hit over 10 years as opposed to $50 million over five years. From 2021-22 to 2022-23, they would be paying $5.8 million in dead cap. Then, from 2023-24 to 2025-26, that dead cap hit would rise to $6.8 million. For the last five years of the buyout, they would only be paying $1.8 million of cap space until it ends in 2030-31. A buyout would save the organization $9 million in cap space and allow the Cats to bring back unrestricted free-agent goaltender Chris Driedger, who was better than Bobrovsky this season.

Related: Panthers Should Buyout Keith Yandle Before The Expansion Draft

Buying out Yandle will allow Florida to protect a young defenseman instead, like Gustav Forsling. It would also get them off the hook for the remaining $12.7 million in cap hit over two seasons. Instead, they could spread a $10.2 million cap hit over four years, and save $2.5 million in the process.

According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Yandle was not asked to waive his NMC ahead of the expansion draft, so we don’t know if Florida is looking to part ways with the former All-Star. However, a buyout before the July 17 deadline is not out of the question.

In 2021-22, the Panthers will have to pay Yandle $2.3 million, while in 2022-23, that number rises to $5.3 million. In the last two seasons of that buyout, 2023-24 and 2024-25, they will shell out $1.2 million in dead cap space. While this buyout wouldn’t help the team save as much money as buying out Bobrovsky would, it gives them a chance to protect another important piece of the roster.

Both buyouts could be in play heading into the July 17 deadline to send their protected list to Seattle.

Chris Driedger

LeBrun mentioned on his show “Insider Trading” that Driedger is looking for $3.5 million per season on his next contract. He also said that the Kraken are believed to be interested in the 27-year-old unrestricted free agent. What does this news mean for the Panthers?

Chris Driedger Florida Panthers
Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Seattle has an exclusive window from July 18-21 to negotiate with free agents, and if Driedger and the Kraken strike a deal, he would become Seattle’s selection from the Panthers in the expansion draft and would save the Panthers from losing a player they have under contract that they might otherwise have lost.

In Driedger, the Kraken would be gaining a quality goaltender, who served a critical role in keeping the Panthers afloat when Bobrovsky struggled. In 23 starts last season, he had a 14-6-3 record with a .927 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.07 goals-against-average (GAA.) He ranked fifth in SV% and GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games in 2020-21.

Panthers Endorse College Athletes

On July 8, 2021, the Panthers became the first major professional sports team to launch a program to pay student-athletes in the region for their name, image, and likeness. This comes after the state of Florida launched laws allowing NCAA Athletes to profit off of their popularity in the local market and ink endorsement deals.

The team put an application on its website calling out to student-athletes to endorse the team. This move increases the team’s reach to the local area, specifically college students, and allows for student-athletes to profit from their talents.