It has been quite the week for the Florida Panthers. A disappointing season came to a close and the Panthers front office immediately pulled the trigger on a franchise changing move when they fired Bob Boughner and brought in the coach with the second most wins in NHL history in hiring Joel Quenneville. That is widely expected to be just the first big splash in what will turn into a huge summer for the Florida Panthers organization. Vinnie Viola and Dale Tallon have promised to be a cap team this summer and with lots of money to spend, Dale Tallon will have the chance to go on the shopping spree of a lifetime. So we here at Panther Parkway are putting together a few shopping lists that he could go by this summer.
Each member of the Panther Parkway staff who participated in putting together a list, did so independently. It is worth noting that none of us saw anyone else’s list prior to writing our own so it will be interesting to see who has similar ideas and who disagrees. To make this even more interesting, we want to hear from all of our readers who’s list you would use for your summer shopping if you were in Dale Tallon’s shoes. Let us know your choice on Twitter @PantherParkway. Let’s get started!
1: New Starting Goalie
2: Versatile Top-4 Defenseman
Who to Get
1: It’s no secret the Panthers need a new starting goalie. The obvious choice here would be to throw the big payday at Sergei Bobrovsky, (which Tallon may very well decide to do) but I’m not big on the idea of locking in a goalie at a huge price until his age 39 season. Um, isn’t that what went wrong this year? Not to mention we would have to leave Sam Montembeault exposed to Seattle. So unless you get Bob to sign for 5 years or less, I would direct my attention to Robin Lehner or Semyon Varlamov. With improved defense and coaching, either goalie will be more than capable of handling a starter’s workload for 2 to 3 years until Monty is ready. And you may be able to afford to keep Lu on the roster at least for next season if you can move James Reimer’s contract. Lehner or Varlamov for 3 years at $4+mil. AAV.
2: The Panthers defense was just awful last season. The new coaching staff should bring drastic improvements, even before any roster additions. But this is the time to win and win big. So we’re swinging for the fences and prying an elite defenseman out of Winnipeg. Jacob Trouba needs to find his way to Sunrise because it’s a perfect fit (plus he’s got a great name). He plays solid defense. He can skate and move the puck. And oh yeah, he had 50 points this season! He is an RFA this summer and reportedly wants out of Winnipeg in search of a bigger payday. Let’s make that happen. First we move Reimer’s bad contract to a team looking to reach the cap floor. Those extra draft picks from our deadline selling should sweeten that deal. Then you move Mark Pysyk, our #13 pick, Denis Malgin, and a future first round pick for Trouba. Lock Trouba in for 8 years at $6.2 mil. AAV.
3: We don’t necessarily need him but it makes too much sense not to happen. We have to sign the Breadman, Artemi Panarin. He’s had huge success with Coach Q, he is best friends with Evgenii Dadonov, and already owns a residence in Miami. Plus we can offer him the most talented group of teammates he has ever played with. On a line with Barkov and Huberdeau, that trio could all top the 90-100 point mark each. That’s how dominant they could be. It would certainly rival the Point-Kucherov-Stamkos trio in Tampa Bay. Sign the Breadman for 7 years at $8.5 mil. AAV and free up your schedule in June for a Stanley Cup parade.
Not much needs to be said about my list, it should be the obvious game plan for the Panthers’ summer because it takes care of every need the Panthers currently have, it fits under the salary cap, (trust me, I crunched the numbers!) and it immediately vaults the Panthers into the highest tier of contending teams for now and the future. Besides, I’m a Sports Management major so you can trust me on this.
2: Top 4 D-Man
3: Scoring Depth
Who To Get
1: This one is pretty obvious. The Luongo-Reimer pairing has run its course. It was a disaster this season. A new #1 is needed and his name isn’t Samuel Montembeault. He’s a good young goalie with a bright future, but this team can’t afford to put next season on his back. Sign Sergei Bobrovsky in FA for 5 years 8.0 AAV. I think the Panthers are the overwhelming favorite to sign Bobrovsky this offseason. However, I’d be shocked if this is the contract he gets. I would think he gets more years but less AAV. In my opinion, it would make more sense to give him more money but fewer years to prevent the Panthers from getting stuck with another aging goalie on a huge deal.
2: Even if Mike Matheson wasn’t coming off a disastrous season, this would be a major need. It has been a need for awhile now. Last year’s half-measure of Bogdan Kiselevich didn’t pan out. Trade Mark Pysyk, the #13 overall pick, and Mike Hoffman to WPG for Jacob Trouba and then sign him to an 8 year deal for 6.5 million AAV. Trouba is a young d-man who gets better every year. He would be a perfect top 4 d-man for this roster. He is responsible defensively and moves the puck well. He’s got the talent to play on any pairing.
3: The Panthers were awful offensively at 5 on 5. More scoring depth is absolutely needed to take this team from a bubble team to a cup contender. The best teams have 3 lines that can score consistently and 1 line to drive opponents crazy with hard forechecking and strong defense. More scoring gets the Panthers closer to achieving that goal. Sign Artemi Panarin in FA for 7 years at 8.5-9.5 AAV. An elite scorer may not be the biggest need of the offseason, but when a legitimate 80+ point player becomes available in FA, you do whatever it takes to get him on your team. Panarin is a monster player that would give the Panthers arguably the best top line in the NHL.
The Panthers should use my grocery list because I’m always right. But seriously. This lineup gives the Panthers an elite roster that puts them in the serious contender category. If they get any kind of jump in play from guys like Borgstrom and Tippett, we are talking about a team that is a cup contender.
1: Starter In Goal
2: Stay at Home Defenseman Who Can Move the Puck (rare)
3: Artemi Panarin
Who To Get
1: While many want Sergei Bobrovsky, the Panthers may be better off going after Robin Lehner or Petr Mrazek. If the organization feels that Sam Montembeault is the future, then one of these two provide a way to ease Monty into the position as goalie of the future. If Sam is not going to be the long term solution, then you go after Bobrovsky. All three goalies will be free agents this summer.
2: This move would come via trade and my target is two-way defenceman, Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg. He’s an RFA this summer so rather than offer sheet him, I would say make a trade to acquire him and sign him to a long term extension.
3: The Panthers should sign Artemi Panarin in free agency this summer because Coach Q loves him and he adds more scoring to the lineup.
These 3 items solve the major issues that the Panthers suffered from this season. The defence will be significantly better, the goaltending will be solid and the addition of Panarin, whom Quenneville loves not only adds scoring, but provides top 6 insurance should one of Hoffman or Dadonov not be resigned. Plus, the Breadman is younger than both Dadonov and Hoffman.
3: Bottom-Six Support
Who To Get
1: First on my grocery list is Sergei Bobrovsky via free-agency. It’s not often that a goalie of his caliber (2 Vezinas) is available on the market. Sergei is a top 3 goaltender in my opinion and would immediately fill the no. 1 role for years to come. His signing would further the possibility of Luongo’s career, if he decides to become the teams back-up. Luo deserves 1 last shot at a cup, because of what he means to this franchise and the community. Secondly, this would provide Sam Montembeault extra time to develop in the minors. He won’t be stuck behind Bob trying to get minutes during the season. Plus, if Luo or Bob goes down with an injury, the team will be in great shape as Sam performed well in his stint with the big club. Had we gotten average goaltending for the first 2-months of the season, we might have been fighting for a play-off spot until the last game of the season. We were given a glimpse of what the future may hold in Samuel Montembeault, but if you have read my article on him, it’ll be better for his development to ease into becoming a starter.
2: Second on my grocery list is one of Jacob Trouba or Dustin Byfuglien via trade from the Winnipeg jets. Both won’t come cheap, especially Trouba who his an RFA. For Trouba, it would cost a 1stthis year (13th overall) a 3rd (pick we got of Alex Petrovic from the Edmonton Oilers) and a center type prospect (Malgin, Lammikko). Trouba would be slotted on the first D pairing and provide a steady, stay-at-home defenseman that could be a threat on the point with his shot. When it comes to Big Buff, his familiarity with coach Q may entice the Panthers to go out and reunite the two. Byfuglien arguably had his best performances under Q when it mattered the most. He can play that stay-at-home game I keep mentioning or he can carry the puck himself and create great scoring opportunities. Can you imagine having Buff and Luo in the Stanley Cup play-offs together?! Defense has been an issue for the Panthers since Tom Rowe took over. With the analytics push and wanting to model the team after the Pittsburgh Penguins, true defense was an after-thought. This past season really showed the holes in the Panthers D corps. Many times not playing physical in-front of Luo, Reims, or Monty. Turning the puck over at an alarming rate (every single Panther top 4 D man had horrific turnovers) It took Josh Brown and Ian McCoshen to be called up to provide big, physical stay-at-home defense.
3: Third on my grocery list is Marcus Kruger, and retaining Jamie McGinn via free agency. Kruger mainly because of his connection with Q and his two-way play. I believe he would be a better fit for the Panthers going forward, especially if he signs a 1 or 2 year deal to allow youngsters to develop in Springfield. He’s won 2 cups with Chicago and could provide leadership that we have been sorely lacking on the bottom lines (No offense to the Panthers previous captain). Kruger would take the place of UFA Riley Sheahan. Then there’s Jamie McGinn. I have to confess, I was not thrilled to hear that he was going to miss most if not all of the season last year. He played a big (often unmentioned) role in Florida’s crazy finish to the 2017-18 campaign. So when he was sent to Springfield for conditioning and averaged a point a game, while throwing the body around, I knew he would help the big club. He provided that spark when he was promoted back to Florida and looked like he had no ill-affects of his injury. He’s a true gamer and is the type of player you want out there to make something happen, like score greasy, gritty goals.
Now you maybe wondering, What!? Where’s Panarin? Trust me, I want him to sign with Florida as well. But there are a few hoops the Panthers have to jump through in order to make that happen. Mainly it comes down to the cap. With the acquisitions I mentioned above, it will be impossible to him to sign here for the type of money he could command. Plus, this team has more glaring needs than more offensive-firepower. They need to be solid in all areas, not just be top-6 heavy. Remember build from the net-out.
1: Address our mission. What type of hockey team do we want to be?
2: Replace our goal tending tandem.
3: Add defensive D depth and set up our three D pairs with complementary pieces.
4: Boost goal scoring production in the bottom 6 forwards.
Who To Get
1: The first of my laundry list times fell in my lap with the new hire of Joel Quenville. I believe he can change the focus of this team and give the boys confidence and coaching within a sound system. This change alone could propel us much further than 5th in the division and 86 points.
2: There has been a lot of attention on Sergei Bobrovsky. He is good option for goal tending, but I fear with a good push by Columbus in the playoffs (although beating Tampa is a real stretch) he could command a big pay day at well over $6 million per. I like Semyon Varlamov and Antti Ranta. Varlamov is a UFA and was at $5.9 million per. Raanta is younger and under contract at $4.25 million per thru 2021. We would have to compete in a sweepstakes for Varlamov and would need to do a package deal for Raanta. Arizona was close to a playoff spot and is in need of a few pieces. We could package a deal and maybe unload Pysyk, Matheson (we would have to eat some of his salary) and a pick or a prospect. I think I would go with Raanta and opt for the trade route, though it would be difficult. I would then see if we could trade Reimer (might also have to eat some of his salary) or just buy him out. Monty or Bednard could be ready for the back up job. Goal tending should then be shored up.
3: There are a few good D prospects out there. I like Nikita Zadorov at 6’-5” and 221 lbs. He’s got Gudbranson size but appears to be more skilled and better in the D end. He is an RFA after 2018-2019. We would have to offer him in the $4 million or more region and hope Colorado could live without him. If we cannot get him, I think we could go with what we have, bit do a better job of deployment. Match a offensive D guy with a defensive D guy. I would love to see Yandle – Zadorov, Ekblad – Weegar, Brown – McCoshen. This goes along with the above possibility of getting rid of Matheson and Pysyk. If we cannot dump Matheson and cannot get Zadorov then, Yandle – Weegar, Ekblad – McCoshen, Matheson – Brown.
4: As far as depth scoring goes, it can be very difficult in picking correctly. These players tend to be very susceptible to systems and minutes. In order to help in this area I would bring up Tippett and try and go for Timo Meier. Meier is an RFA after 2018-2019 and will command a big salary. The Leafs deal with Bill Nylander might hamper a real attempt at getting Meier. He will be in the $6 to $7 million per. But while we have our core plus Hoffman for another year I say go for it. Meier is a big body power forward and is very strong on the puck. He can bump and grind and puts the puck in the net. We have bumpers and grinders but they rarely light the lamp.
So, that is how I would do it. A new vision with depth scoring, a smart defense and a good goaltender has been the recipe for success in the NHL for countless years. I really think Coach Q could do what is needed with what we have. But these few moves could really put us in the competition with the very best in the league.
We Want to Hear From You!
There you have it! Five different lists to choose from. Remember to Tweet @PantherParkway and/or @FrankRekas to let us know who’s list you would take into this huge summer for the Florida Panthers and what tweaks you would make. As always, thanks for reading!