After a contract holdout with the Vancouver Canucks, Pavel Bure was traded to the Florida Panthers in a seven-player deal that included Ed Jovanovski. Once he arrived, he became one of the best players the Panthers ever had, instantly breaking the team’s record for goals in a season and leading Florida to a playoff appearance in 1999-00.
Bure only played 11 games in 1998-99 after being traded to the Panthers mid-season, but he lit up the scoresheet nevertheless. In those 11 games, he had 13 goals and three assists for 16 points, which is a 120-point pace in a full 82 game season. He finished seventh on the team in goals despite being acquired in January.
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The 1999-00 season was the most dominant of Bure’s Panthers career, as he set the franchise’s record for goals and points in a season with a 58-goal and 94-point season. His goals record would only stand for one more season, as he toppled it again in 2000-01 with a 59-goal campaign. His points record would stand firm for 19 years until Aleksander Barkov broke it with a 95-point campaign in 2018-19.
What makes the 1999-00 season more impressive is that Bure managed to score those 58 goals and 94 points in 74 games while also leading the Panthers to a playoff berth. He would score a goal and four points in four games, as Florida was swept by the powerhouse New Jersey Devils team that dominated the late 90s and early 2000s. The Panthers wouldn’t reach the playoffs again until 2011-12.
2000-01 was Bure’s last in Florida, seeing him score 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games. He was traded to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline in a deal that gave Florida the Rangers’ first and second-round picks in the 2002 NHL Draft. He would only play a total of 51 games as a Ranger over the next two seasons, retiring in 2005 after not playing since 2003.
Bure’s Panthers Legacy
Despite playing just 223 games in South Florida, Bure ranks fifth all-time in goals as a Panther with 152. He played at least half the number of games that each of the four players ahead of him played, while Barkov leads the pack with 188 goals. He also averaged the most time on ice per game as a forward in Panthers history, recording 23:18 a night.
Bure’s production as a Panther has gone unmatched since his departure, as he led the league in goals in both 1999-00 and 2000-01, winning the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy, remaining the only player in franchise history to win the award. He also finished in the top 10 in Hart Trophy voting both years, finishing third in 1999-00.
If his career wasn’t cut short by injury, he would be one of the greatest players of all time, but he had to hang his skates up at the age of 31. However, his two-season stretch with the Panthers was one of the greatest stretches of hockey in NHL history, having the 40th and 42nd best scoring seasons in NHL history.
While he wasn’t in Florida for long, Bure was a huge part of putting the Panthers on the map. He became the first Panther to win an individual award, being the only one to do so until 2011-12 when Brian Campbell won the Lady Byng Trophy. He also remains the franchise’s leading single-season goal scorer and is firmly in the top 10 in goal scoring despite his short stay. For that, Bure deserves to be in the conversation for the greatest player in franchise history.