The Florida Panthers once again failed to make the playoffs this past season, but not because the team they had wasn’t good enough to at least qualify for a wild card spot in the relatively weaker eastern conference. Some bad luck hit down the stretch when both Roberto Loungo and Al Montoya were hurt in the same game, both missing considerable time as the season wound down. However this will not stop general manager Dale Tallon from making a few moves this off-season, as he attempts to solidify his blue line and team as a whole.
The Free Agents this Off Season
The Florida Panthers are going to have to figure out what they are going to do with their five important free agents. Jimmy Hayes, who is an RFA, is sure to get a lucrative contract extension after coming off his best statistical season in the NHL. The 6’6 winger found his way to the powerplay late in the season and the goals kept coming for him. Although Tallon would like to sign Hayes to a long term extension a two to three year deal in the three million dollar range looks more likely.
Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall are both UFA’s and are good as gone. It was no secret towards the latter half of the season that Dale Tallon had no desire to resign either winger. Both wingers had sub par seasons that make them expendable, especially with all of the young forward talent possessed by the Panthers.
Jonathan Huberdeau is an RFA and will likely get a two to three year bridge contract. I have heard Huberdeau’s name being floated around in rumor mill as of late, possibly looking for a defenseman in return. Huberdeau lead the Panthers in scoring with fifteen goals and thirty-nine assists. I would think that Dale Tallon would explore the free agent market before even thinking about trading him this off-season.
Alex Petrovic rounds out the Panthers free agents and he is another guy that should be easy to resign at least for another year or two. He’s a solid third pairing defensemen at this point, but still has the potential to make his way into the top four.
Trade or Free Agency?
After successfully resigning his key free agents Dale Tallon should then turn his attention toward acquiring a proven blue liner. Tallon can either explore the trade market for a defenseman, or he can look at this years free agent class that includes: Mike Green, Andrej Sekera, Paul Martin, Cody Franson, or Francois Beauchemin. The one thing about free agents is they always tend to be overpaid, but that isn’t too much of a problem for the Panthers considering they have considerable amount of cap space. An addition of one of these defensemen would greatly improve Florida’s blue line and make them a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
The Florida Panthers also hold the eleventh pick in the upcoming draft, but I don’t see Dale Tallon trading the pick unless they can acquire a young, proven player that can make an impact right away, but I will touch more on that in my next article.