A Look At Potential Free Agents For The Florida Panthers

A hockey fans favourite time of the off season is upon us as “Free Agent Frenzy” begins on Friday with teams around the league  throwing money at players as if there’s no more left after this season, and contract lengths that are likely to last longer than most normal people hold a job.  But that’s why it’s so much fun isn’t?  We’ve already seen some eyebrow raising activity with contracts that have been given out to players like Kris Letang (sorry Paige), Bryan Bickell, Mike Smith and finally Vinny Lecavalier.  All four of these deals are suspect to say the least, yet the Bickell deal is the one that makes the most sense if only because of his playoff performance, and the Smith contract is the deal that makes one think it really  is that hot in Phoenix.

As we look into the crystal ball of general manager Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers, the fan base wonders just what’s up his sleeve this time.  It’s not likely that Dale and the Cats will make the splash they did in the summer of 2011 when the Panthers signed 47, um check that, 11 players, but we are all hopeful that there isn’t the thud of 2009 when JM the GM attempted to wet our whistles with the signing of Ville Koistenen.  Or maybe that was Randy Sexton’s fault.  I can’t remember, and I’m too tired to look it up. With the news of Florida buying out defenceman Filip Kuba, the Panthers freed up even more space, however it doesn’t mean that they’ll spend it all.  This is not going to be a shopping spree even though the team has over $19 million to spend.  The team however does has some needs to fill, and hopefully they’ll be addressed without tempting too many 35 year olds on the downside of their career.

I had a list that I created a few months ago, and while I still feel that David Clarkson would be a perfect signing, it looks as though he’ll price himself out of our range.  That’s too bad as Florida can use his toughness, his nose for the net, and his solid two way play. Knowing that he likely won’t sign here after typing that disappoints me.  Many have expressed an interest in Michael Ryder who I like most of the time, except the times when he’s not interested in playing.  He’s got a hell of a shot and can score, but his attitude reminds me of an older version of a former Panther who wants to test the market. Good luck, good times, good riddance.

Anyway ……let’s move on to some other names that the Panthers should consider.  Not in any particular order, but heeeeere they are!

Names after the jump

Mayson Raymond:  Very unusual for me to nominate a Vancouver Canuck, but he’s not your typical Canucklehead that infuriates me.  Raymond is a 27 year old wing who can play on either side and can skate like the wind.  He’s also very capable of scoring consistently when given the chance.  His best season was 2009-2010 when he scored 25 goals and had 28 assists playing a lot of the time with the Sedins.  He’s followed that season up with two that have been very average, but in his defence we must take into consideration that he’s not seeing top line duty and has battled some injuries.  Still, he’s approaching his prime, and if given the chance to play on the top six, would be well worth a contract of 4 years in the $3 to $3.5 million dollar range.  With Clarkson likely not coming, Raymond is my number one choice.

Daniel Briere:  Ok, he’s 35 and he’s had a recent history of injuries.  But when healthy he’s a slick playmaker who can score, agitate, kill penalties, win faceoffs and can center one of your two top lines.  Plus he’s got cute kids, so they’ll love Florida.  Again, here I go with an attempt to acquire a player from a team not on my Christmas card list, but a healthy Briere is a good Briere.  Don’t expect a 95 point season like he had in Buffalo back in 2006-2007, or the 68 point season he had for the Flyers in 2010-2011. But if Briere can give the Panthers 55 points, win more than 50% of his faceoffs and help develop Aleksander Barkov, he’s worth signing.  I’d go two years, three tops.  As for the dollars, if you can get Briere for $4 million per year for two years, I think you have to do it.  It may sound like a bit much, but if he’s healthy, and can play at full speed, he’ll be worth it.  Then, we’ll be very strong up the middle.

Valteri Filppula:  Another player from a team not on my holiday list, but Filppula is versatile and can play both the wing and center.  He plays hard, and can score in the neighborhood of 25 goals when healthy.  If he gets top line minutes and plays a major role, maybe he can top 30.  He’s a complete forward that can be used in a number of roles and is only 29, so there’s a lot left for him to do.  This year wasn’t a great regular season for him, but a shoulder injury bothered him.  He may have been overpaid for this season based on his performance, and signing him might be a reach, but if you can get him for $4 million or slightly more, and lock him for 4 years, it’s a signing we won’t be sorry for.

Mike Komisarek:  Before you start throwing knives at me, hear me out.  Just a two years removed from a pretty solid season, it’s not his fault that Brian Burke (then GM of the Maple Leafs) overpaid for his services.  Komisarek isn’t as bad as the people of hockey universe (Toronto) make you think.  I wouldn’t be looking for him to be a top three defender, but anywhere from four to six at a decent price, he’d be serviceable.  Only 31, and with the frustration of only playing 4 games last season, maybe he’s got chip on his shoulder and comes here with something to prove.  He does play with a nasty edge, and we certainly need that on the blueline.  Since Kuba was just bought out, the Panthers mentioned looking for a veteran defenceman.  Two years, $2 million per gets him.

If going into the season with Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen doesn’t make you tighten up a touch, then you probably also like listening to the in game music at the BB & T Center.  Upgrades in both categories are needed.  Markstrom in this writer’s opinion isn’t ready to drive my car full time…..yet.  I love Scott Clemmensen.  One of the nicest players I’ve ever met, but we are familiar with his inconsistencies.  In his defence however, the entire defensive part of the Panthers game last year left much to be desired, and even a young Martin Brodeur wouldn’t have fared too well.  That said…..

Evgeni Nabokov:  He’s 37 and soon to be 38 and may not want to go to a team that’s in a rebuild, but he can still play, and is still a solid netminder as he proved last year on Long Island.  I just don’t think he’ll have too many teams chasing him, and if he wants to even sniff more than 40 games, this is a perfect place to be.  He can play 45-50 games if needed, show Marky the ropes for a season, and move on.  A one year deal for a goaltender who won 23 games last season and kept his team in the playoff hunt all season long wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  He made $2.75 million last season and I think you have to give him that or $3 million  at least.  If he’s willing to come for less, then do it.

Updated comment:  If Jose Theodore can be signed and is healthy, he is really my ideal choice to help Markstrom develop.  I’m just not sure how the Panthers feel about him.  But I would love for Theo to finish his career here. 

The Florida Panthers need to ice a team that will not only make them more competitive, but a team that will be tougher to play against.  There are too many kids on this team and in this organization who need to be developed properly and guided by character players, and be taught how to win, as well as not get pushed around.

Curious to your thoughts on my list.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, 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.

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