The Florida Panthers entered free agency looking into the bargain bin as they had less than $1 million to work with in cap space. Moves were expected to be minuscule at best. However, general manager Bill Zito worked his magic once again and managed to nab someone who has a decent resume as they signed former Ottawa Senators forward Colin White to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million.
The Boston native was drafted 21st overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Senators. He would not play his first NHL game, however, until the 2016-17 season when he registered only one shot. That same season, he got his feet wet in the NHL postseason atmosphere and play in his one and only Stanley Cup Playoffs game. In the 2017-18 season, he scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 6, 2018, against the New Jersey Devils.
The next season, he played in 71 games, hitting a career-high in points with 41 (14 goals, 27 assists, also career highs). Much like over half the league, his season was cut short in the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He dressed for only 61 games, finishing them with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists). In the shortened season of 2021, he skated in 45 games, scoring ten goals and assisting on eight others.
Related: Florida Panthers’ 2022 Draft Recap
This past season, he suited up for only 24 games, scoring three goals and piling up seven assists. Last week, he was bought out by the Senators. With that being said, why are the Panthers giving this kid a chance?
He’s Going to Have Great Linemates, Coaches & Teammates
More than likely, head coach Paul Maurice is going to put him on the third line once forward Anthony Duclair returns from injury. When that happens, he’ll get to play with great forwards such as Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell. Before then, he may have a second-line role with a Hart Trophy candidate in Jonathan Huberdeau.
Even if he does not get to play with them, he’ll get a chance to learn from players with Stanley Cup experience such as forwards Patric Hornqvist and Eric Stall. And speaking of Duclair, he’ll be reunited with his former teammate from 2018 through 2020 as a Sen. Furthermore, he’ll be learning from a coach with playoff experience in Paul Maurice. It’s a great situation for White overall to be in, considering this team just won the Presidents’ Trophy.
If He Does Not Pan Out, He’s On a One-Year Deal
Of course, nobody wants to see anyone in the NHL take a tumble. However, if White does not perform well with his new team, he was brought in on a “show me” type deal. Ultimately, the Panthers are giving the young player a chance to flourish on a new team, with strong teammates. In Ottawa, he was going through a rough patch for the franchise and did not have as much help as he does now.
If he fails to succeed in a new environment, Florida was not giving him a massive deal like the captain in Aleksander Barkov was given last offseason around the $10 million a year range. Therefore, it would not be such a massive loss.
Did Zito Find Another Diamond in the Rough?
The Panthers’ general manager thrives off of under-the-radar signings on small deals. For example, he managed to nab forward Carter Verhaeghe and defenseman Gustav Forsling a couple of seasons ago. Now, they’re key pieces to the Panther lineup night in and night out. In addition, the last young forward he got from Ottawa was Duclair, who just had his career year this past regular season. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in the NHL, but this is another one of Zito’s low-risk, high-reward signings and fans should be assured that he grabbed another great piece from the clearance rack.