Panthers May Not Need Noel Acciari After This Season

During a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers forward Noel Acciari suffered an injury that required him to have surgery. In addition, he was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), which gives the Panthers roughly $1.7 million to work with in extra cap space. It is unknown when he will return to the lineup. He is currently on the final year of his three-year deal. So, what does the future hold for him when he comes back?

Accari Can Fix Some Issues Plaguing the Team

The current center depth for the Panthers is nothing short of great. However, there are a few problems that currently plague the center position and the Cats themselves. The team is currently ranked 30th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage with a 45.8 percent win percentage at the dot. In addition, the team’s penalty killing is 14th in the NHL with an 81.8 percent kill rate.

Related: Panthers Check-in: Strong All-Around Start Has Florida in Driver’s Seat

Last season, Acciari was over 50 percent in the faceoff circle, making him fourth on the team. Furthermore, he was on the main penalty-kill unit for Florida for two straight seasons, which finished tied for 17th that season with an 79.8 percent kill percentage. His abilities and performance over the past two seasons made him a part of the nucleus of the center depth for the team.

When He Comes Back, Who Does He Fill in For?

When it comes to the center position, the Panthers have a good problem on their hands as all four lines are currently loaded with talent at center. Normally, he would be playing center on the fourth line. However, the line is currently being centered by Eetu Luostarinen, who has been nothing short of incredible this season with his speed and goal-scoring touch.

Noel Acciari Florida Panthers
After suffering an injury this past preseason, Florida Panthers forward Noel Acciari needed surgery and has yet to dress for a game this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In addition, the main penalty-killer role — other than the one held by center and captain Aleksander Barkov — has been taken by center Anton Lundell, who has excelled. With the amount of depth this time around, it’s going to be difficult to slot him back into the lineup without taking out a huge piece of talent.

Is There a Plan to Phase Him Out?

As previously mentioned, Acciari is on the final season of his three-year, roughly $1.7 million contract that he signed back in 2019. The contract includes a modified no-trade clause (NTC) in which he submits a 10-team, no-trade list. With the amount of center depth acquired with players like Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Joe Thornton, Lundell and Luostarinen, it may seem like general manager Bill Zito has no intention on bringing him back next season.

Related: Panthers’ Sam Reinhart Excelling in First Season with Team

In addition, Zito will be more focused on getting a new contract for forward Jonathan Huberdeau, whose deal goes into it’s final year next season. In addition, it is unknown if Acciari is willing to take a discount for his next contract if he is offered a new one this upcoming offseason.

Noel Acciari’s Future with Florida is Cloudy

Overall, it’s unknown what is going to happen with Acciari once he’s completely healthy. But the fact that Florida has played extremely well despite him not being there is a great sign of things to come in the future.

Additionally, assuming he’s back in time, his style of play is perfect for playoff hockey with the grit he brings into the lineup, as shown last postseason where he dressed for all six games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. The 30-year-old’s future is bleak, and fans may not be too happy to see him walk away from the South Florida lifestyle.

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