With 15 games in the books so far and a record of 4-7-4 to show for it, the Florida Panthers are painting themselves in a corner with little margin for error. The next five games on the schedule are going to tell us a great deal about the balance of the season. Games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the road (back to back too), followed by three home games against Boston, Pittsburgh and Buffalo will be no walk in the park, especially the way Florida has been playing lately. The only good news is that the Southeast Division is so weak, that the Panthers despite their dismal record are only five points off the division lead. Regardless of that fact, it’s becoming blatantly obvious that the team needs something in order to help get them to the next level, whether that be this season, or next.
Dale Tallon has a five year plan, and last year’s division championship may have come a year or two early, in order for the Florida Panthers to excel and be a consistent playoff contender, ultimately challenging for the Stanley Cup, a proven player or two needs to be acquired. We have drafted extremely well over the past two seasons, and have some of the brightest young players coming up the ranks in the future, yet we need at least one or two skilled players to be mixed in with the current group. A top notch goal scorer or sniper if you will, and a hard working consistently producing forward would fill the bill. Building through the draft, making a few trades, and signing key free agents are all part of the mixture. Here’s five unrestricted free agents that deserve a look:
1) Ryan Getzlaf: A true big center to finally lineup against everyone else’s top pivot man, Getzlaf has a superior skill set for someone with his size. While he’s not as much of a goal scorer as a set up man, he can still put the puck in the net and get his share of goals. He’s been fortunate to play with some gifted wingers like Corey Perry for example, allowing him to focus more on setting up rather than scoring. Depending on who his linemates are, he could be a player who’s goals and assists are more even more if he takes more shots. Currently making $5.325 million he may be out of our price range, and Anaheim might want to keep him. Rumor has it he’s building or has built a house in that area, so he may be looking to stay. It’s still worth a shot to make him an offer.
2)Corey Perry: Two seasons removed from a 50 goal campaign, the 27 year old right winger is capable of averaging a point per game or better. Perry has the size of a power forward at 6′-3″ and 212 lbs, and would likely look very good standing in the crease on the power play, or barreling down the wing looking to score at will. He’s had a bit of a slow start so far this season, but is beginning to find his touch. Obviously a natural goal scorer like Perry will be streaky, but we haven’t had a player of this caliber in quite some time. Perry currently makes $5.325 million and will be looking for some big numbers, and a long deal. This might be a pipe dream, but adding Perry gives us an immediate offensive threat, and unlike Bure some toughness to go along with him. If we want to be a serious contender we need a true first line player like Perry.
3) David Clarkson: Yes, that’s right, David Clarkson. He may not be the purest goal scorer there is, but he’s finding the back of the net with more regularity playing in a defensive first style system. Imagine what he could do playing in a more uptempo scheme. Clarkson had a breakout season last year scoring 30 goals for the New Jersey Devils, and has 10 so far this year, putting him on pace for another 30 goal year, yet in 0nly 48 games. He plays the game hard every shift. He finishes his checks, and more importantly is another player with that physical edge to him. Something we are desperately missing from the forward ranks. Clarkson who is 28 is currently making $2.666 million and could be a more manageable signing. If he continues at the pace he’s on so far, $5 million or more isn’t out of the question. He’s not the true superstar we are wanting, but it would be a start.
4) Mayson Raymond: We may not have seen the best of Raymond yet as he’s typically playing third line minutes, although season with injuries to David Booth and Ryan Kessler he’s getting time on the second line and he’s making the most of them. Prior to last night’s game against the Blackhawks he had six points in his previous six game, and had five goals with 4 assists. He can score as he he proved in 2009-2010 when he potted 25 goals. He skates like the wind as well, which makes him fun to watch. He’s not a household name or the star studded player that we covet, but combine him with one of the players above and we’ve added to solid forwards with goal scoring, and playmaking ability. Raymond makes $2.275 million, and looks to certainly be an affordable player to pursue.
5) Viktor Fasth: Though we have only seen a snapshot of the late blooming netminder, Fasth is currently playing like a man possesed and is 7-0-0 in his last eight games with a 1.78 GAA. He has been nothing short of outstanding while appearing to take over for the struggling Jonas Hiller. I don’t doubt that Anaheim will try to sign him, however should he continue to play this way, he’ll get a number of offers. Is he proven? The rest of the season will show, and if you look at his when he’s played more than 23 games, he’s been impressive. Currently making a cool million, he’ll want a hefty raise, but if the Panthers end up moving on from Jose Theodore, or trading Scott Clemmensen, I could see Fasth and Markstrom as the tandem of the future.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @RatTrickLewiz Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Adam Reid@AdamReid Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44, Justen Rosenberg @justenrosenberg, Lori Carpenter @lmcangel13, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530. Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind