It’s the beginning of July, and the Florida Panthers have already had a busy summer. Off-ice changes aside, the Panthers entered last Friday’s “free agent frenzy” seemingly with plenty of money to spend. As I pointed out last Thursday, however, that cap space was an illusion. Florida GM Tom Rowe would have to explore low-cost options to fill out the third and fourth lines.
Rowe did just that, signing forwards Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault early Friday afternoon. The next day, he inked defenseman Jason Demers to a five-year deal. While Marchessault is somewhat familiar to Panthers fans from his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, former Dallas Stars Sceviour and Demers are strangers. Who are these guys, and what can Florida fans expect from them?
The acquisition of Sceviour (SEE-vee-ur, or that’s how we say it in Dallas, anyway) took most Panthers fans by surprise. Unfamiliar with the 27-year-old right-wing and expecting Florida to land Kyle Okposo or Loui Eriksson, some expressed disappointment with the signing. It’s time to turn that frown upside down, Panthers fans: This was a smart move, and possibly the NHL’s best bargain signing of the summer.
Due to Dallas’ incredible forward depth, Sceviour spent the majority of his time on the Stars’ fourth line, which is why his point totals (11 G – 12 A in 2015-16) seem so low. Against the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the playoffs last spring, the speedy right-wing was a pleasant surprise, chipping in one goal and three assists in five games while skating just over 14 minutes per night. He’s got good hands, a quick release and an accurate shot:
Sceviour’s so stealthy, he can score without anyone even knowing:
He’s also got eyes in the back (or at least on the side) of his head:
Sceviour’s speed makes him an effective fore-checker. In the offensive zone, he provides a consistent net-front presence (a critical skill the Panthers often lacked last season), scoring most of his goals from just outside the crease. The right-wing is also defensively responsible and was a mainstay on the Dallas penalty kill.
What about his puck possession stats? The numbers aren’t bad: Among Dallas forwards, Sceviour had the second-most defensive zone starts, percentage-wise (36.2), and the fewest offensive-zone starts (26.0) last season. Despite starting more than a third of his shifts in the defensive zone, the right-wing had an even-strength Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 50.7.
The native of Red Deer, Alberta (just like Randy Moller) is a smart, driven competitor. At 27, he’s no longer a “wide-eyed kid.” Playing on Florida’s third line with Nick Bjugstad and an as-yet-unknown left-wing, 15-20 goals and 40 points isn’t unreasonable for Sceviour. That’s third line production at a fourth line price (he’ll make $950,000 per year). That’s a good deal.
On July 2, the Panthers inked former Stars defenseman Jason Demers (Duh-MURS or Duh-MAIRS; nobody in Dallas could agree on this) to a five-year, $22.5 million contract. The signing took many people across the NHL by surprise; folks in Boston certainly weren’t happy about it.
Demers is a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman. He spent most of last season paired with Johnny Oduya on the Stars’ second unit. Like the rest of the team, Demers battled through a slump in January and February. On March 8, “Daddy” (as he’s known to teammates) suffered a shoulder injury which sidelined him for a month. He returned to the lineup just in time for the playoffs, but the emergence of Stephen Johns in his absence forced Demers onto Dallas’ third pair, with trade deadline acquisition Kris Russell.
Demers’ struggles to get back up to game speed in the playoffs were compounded by his pairing with the diminutive Russell who, simply put, blocks shots more than anyone else in the NHL because he rarely has the puck. Against St. Louis’ big forwards and two-man fore-check, the duo were out-muscled and exposed with alarming frequency. Paired with a blueliner who is physically larger and a better puck mover (like Yandle), however, a healthy Demers should be a nice addition to the Panthers’ top four. His pre-injury numbers last season (courtesy of Own The Puck) were quite good:
Off the ice, Demers can best be described as being “good in the room.” He’s very outgoing and talkative, which was not always appreciated by teammates hoping to catch some shuteye on the plane:
— jason demers (@jasondemers5) December 20, 2015
Not only is he a good quote, but Demers might just have a post-hockey future in front of the camera:
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 13, 2016
With 423 regular season and 52 playoff games under his belt, the 28-year-old Demers is a veteran defender in his prime. He can help Florida’s younger defensemen develop, as well as keeping teammates loose with his sense of humor. In just two seasons, he became a fan favorite in Dallas. Expect him to do the same in Sunrise.
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.