Panthers News & Rumors: Yandle Buyout, Re-Signings, & Expansion Draft

Thursday was a big day in Pantherland, as the Florida Panthers bought out the last two seasons of Keith Yandle’s contract, paving the way for them to re-sign two key players on their roster. In today’s edition of Panthers News & Rumors, we will be talking about each of these roster moves and their implications on the expansion draft.

Panthers Buy Out Keith Yandle

As I predicted on Wednesday’s edition of Panthers News & Rumors, the team announced that they have bought out the final two seasons of Yandle’s contract. This opens up another spot for them to protect a player during the expansion draft, as Yandle had a no-movement clause on his deal that would’ve required Florida to add him to their protected list.

Keith Yandle Florida Panthers
Keith Yandle, former Florida Panther (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With the buyout, Florida now will have $2.3 million in dead cap space in 2021-22, $5.39 million in dead cap hit in 2022-23, and $1.24 million in both 2023-24 and 2024-25. Between Yandle’s buyout number in 2022-23 and the last year of the Panthers’ buyout of Scott Darling, the team will have a total of $6.6 million in dead cap hit in two seasons.

However, the buyout does save the Panthers roughly $4 million in cap space next season and $1 million in 2022 -23. With those savings, general manager Bill Zito already locked up two restricted free agents to new contracts for the next three years.

Panthers Re-Sign Pair of RFAs

Following the Yandle buyout, the Panthers announced that they re-signed restricted free agents Gustav Forsling and Anthony Duclair to three-year contracts. Forsling’s carries an average-annual-value (AAV) of $2.67 million, while Duclair’s AAV sits at $3 million.

Forsling’s re-signing coinciding with Yandle’s buyout shows that Zito trusts the 25-year-old blueliner enough to protect him in the expansion draft.

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“After joining the Panthers in January, Gustav had a career season setting personal records and establishing his defensive game to bolster our blueline,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said in the news release following the signing. “We are looking forward to watching him continue to develop his game with our club.”

Forsling proved his worth after being picked up off waivers at the beginning of the season, scoring 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 43 games this season. He served a crucial role on Florida’s defense following Aaron Ekblad’s late-season injury, stepping up to take top pairing minutes during the team’s playoff push.

Duclair also is set to play an important role on the team, following a season that saw him score 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 43 games. Head coach Joel Quenneville trusted the 25-year-old enough to play him on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe and could return to that role again if called upon. The re-signing also signals Zito’s trust in Duclair, likely locking him into Florida’s protected list as well.

Expansion Draft Ramifications

With Forsling and Duclair now shoo-ins for the Panthers’ protected list, the entirety of the list seems to be coming together at this point and could look something like this:

  • F Aleksander Barkov
  • F Jonathan Huberdeau
  • F Patric Hornqvist
  • F Anthony Duclair
  • F Frank Vatrano
  • F Sam Bennett
  • F Carter Verhaeghe
  • D Aaron Ekblad
  • D MacKenzie Weegar
  • D Gustav Forsling
  • G Sergei Borbrovsky

The notable Panthers who would be left unprotected in this scenario are Chris Driedger, Radko Gudas, Noel Acciari, and Mason Marchment, among others. It is noted that the Seattle Kraken are interested in signing Driedger as an unrestricted free agent during the team’s exclusive period to talk to free agents between July 18-21 and select him as their pick from Florida, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. He is reportedly looking for $3.5 million per season, as reported in Wednesday’s News & Rumors column.

As for the others, the most intriguing of the three would be Acciari, who is a reliable penalty killer on a $1.67 million cap hit. It is worth mentioning that he is also just one year removed from a 20-goal campaign after following it up with four goals and 11 points in 41 games this past season.

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