Panthers News & Rumors: The Kraken Like to Share, Coach Ruutu & More

Today’s edition of Panthers News & Rumors is jampacked with exciting news regarding your Florida Panthers. The Cats entered an agreement to share their AHL franchise, the Charlotte Checkers, with the Seattle Kraken for the 2021-22 season, added former 12-year NHL veteran Tuomo Ruutu to their coaching staff, and will likely have to make up the canceled 2021 NHL All-Star Game that was supposed to be in Sunrise a different year, as Vegas has been selected as the host of the 2022 All-Star Game.

Panthers To Share Checkers With The Kraken

On June 28, 2021, the Panthers and the Kraken reached a joint agreement to allow Seattle to play their prospects in Charlotte for the 2021-22 season while awaiting their new AHL franchise’s stadium in Palm Springs, CA to be completed. The Panthers’ multi-year agreement with the Checkers remains intact past the 2021-22 season.

Aleksi Saarela Charlotte Checkers
Aleksi Saarela, Charlotte Checkers (TheAHL / CC BY

This will be the second season in a row that the Panthers have to share an AHL team with another franchise, as they had to share the Syracuse Crunch with the Tampa Bay Lightning after the Charlotte Checkers opted out of the 2020-21 season. However, this season will be different, as the Panthers are the team that provides the head coach, thus having control over roster decisions, while Seattle will provide an assistant coach.

The Kraken agreement will likely see fewer situations where Florida players get less ice time, as Panthers prospects Grigori Denisenko (15 games played) and Serron Noel (eight games played) were often scratched by the Crunch in favor of players who were affiliated with the Lightning.

It remains to be seen if this agreement gives Florida an advantage in negotiations heading into the Seattle Expansion Draft coming up in July, but it does show that general managers Bill Zito and Ron Francis have been talking.

With many trades being made in order to protect extra players or bait the Vegas Golden Knights into taking a certain player during their expansion draft in 2017, this move has a slight chance of making negotiations easier for Zito if he goes that route.

Panthers Add Ruutu To The Coaching Staff

On June 29, 2021, the Panthers announced that they added the former 12-year NHL veteran to their coaching staff. Ruutu scored 148 career goals and 346 points in 735 career NHL games, winning two Olympic bronze medals with Team Finland in 2010 and 2014.

Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr

Ruutu spent the last two seasons with the New York Rangers, serving as an assistant director of player development in 2020-21. He also served as an assistant coach with Team Finland in the IIHF World Junior Championship between 2019-2021. Finland took home the gold medal in 2019 and the bronze medal in 2021 with Anton Lundell, who recently signed his entry-level contract with the Panthers.

In 14 games under Ruutu’s leadership, Lundell scored seven goals and 14 points, serving as Finland’s captain in their run to a bronze medal in 2021. He scored six goals and 10 points in seven games in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The move seemingly makes Lundell’s transition to the North American game easier by providing a familiar face to work with when he arrives in Sunrise. It also adds to Florida’s Finnish presence, as the Panthers currently have six Finland natives signed to their roster.

2022 NHL All-Star Game Isn’t Coming to Sunrise

After the NHL originally granted the BB&T Center the 2021 NHL All-Star Game, which was canceled due to COVID-19, an All-Star Game in Sunrise will have to wait at least another year. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the 2022 NHL All-Star Game will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

According to George Richards of Florida Hockey Now, the move could be motivated by a possible decision by Commissioner Bettman to send NHL players to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. If they were to send players to the Olympics for the first time since 2014, it would be easier for those who participate in All-Star Weekend to fly out of Nevada rather than Florida.

Panthers team president Matt Caldwell told Florida Hockey Now that he was under the impression that the All-Star Game would return to South Florida, but now that won’t happen until at least 2023.

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