We all know that the Florida Panthers have money to burn this summer in free agency, and the hope is that Dale Tallon will be able to land one, if not two marque players in an effort to bring not only scoring, but respectability to South Florida. It’s a tall order, and there will be much competition for some of the bigger names out there. Hopefully the Panthers won’t have to over pay too much for any of the players that they’ve targeted. Besides making an effort to attract a couple of big names to help fill out the top 6 at forward, and a defenceman or two, there are a few players that are flying below the radar that could instantly help this team.
Mayson Raymond is a player that this site has long been a fan of, and is someone that can make the Panthers better immediately. Raymond who last year was ignored by all 30 NHL teams until the Toronto Maple Leafs scooped him up in September, signing him to a one year deal, could fit in very nicely on either the second, or third line for Florida. Raymond who tallied 25 goals while playing for the Vancouver Canucks in 2009-2010, and scored 19 for the Leafs last season has obviously shown a goal scoring touch. His speed makes him a dangerous threat, and his ability to play solid two way hockey makes him useful on special teams.
Raymond earned a paltry million dollars last season, and would likely be looking for a 3 or even 4 year deal at this point in his career. He’ll be 29 in September and is still young enough to fit in with the youth movement here, and also brings some playoff experience as well after seeing post season action with the Canucks. Dale wouldn’t have to offer the moon, yet if Raymond would consider a deal in the $2.5-$3 million dollar range, he’d be a perfect fit.
Devin Setoguchi is a former 30 goal scorer for the San Jose Sharks who has somehow seen his production dwindle. Playing with the Sharks, “Gooch” scored 84 goals in three plus seasons, and added 14 more in the playoffs. Devin isn’t big by any means, but can play a power forward type game, as has to ability to play physical when needed. He had 143 hits last season in 75 games for the Winnipeg Jets while scoring only 11 goals, but wasn’t seeing much time on the top two lines. Still, he’s a player who we know can score when given the opportunity, and will add a much needed physical element to a Panther team that has been known to be soft.
I don’t think that Setoguchi would be able to command the $3 million he was paid last season, and should come in at about a million less, still has some game in him at 27 years old, which is when most hockey players are hitting their prime. He won’t be highly sought after either, and could be another “bargain” for Florida. His physical presence could be something that’s been missing on the anemic power play, as he could plant himself in the crease. An attribute that’s been missing since the days of Gary Roberts.
Willie Mitchell is a 37 year old defenceman, coming off of his 2nd Stanley Cup. Though he doesn’t show a lot of flash, Mitchell has been a key part to the LA Kings success over the past 3 seasons. And on the Panther’s blueline, that’s something that’s sorely needed. Mitchell has also been very durable throughout most of his career, and would provide fantastic veteran presence to help young defencemen like Erik Gudbranson and Dylan Olsen. He won’t pile up a ton of points, but his physicality and shut-down defensive style is something to be desired in the Panthers dressing room.
While the Panthers wait for players like Ian McCoshen and Joshua Brown to become NHL ready, Mitchell could be around long enough to fill the middle pairing till the kids are NHL ready.
The Panthers will enter the free agent market in July with a lot of work to do, and while many want the “big” name player(s) signed, they’ll also have to fill in the roster with “needs”. Any one or even two of these three players can step in immediately and be significant contributors to the club.
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