IMAGE PROPERTY OF KIM SMITH
It appears that after my report card on Aleksander Barkov, I’ve been handed the task of grading the “grinders” of the Florida Panthers. I have no one to blame other than myself since I’m the one that handed out the assignments. Today we’re going to look at a player that is going to be difficult to grade for the past season, and who may or may not be a part of the future of the Florida Panthers.
Jaime McGinn was acquired prior to the start of the 2017-2018 season in a trade that saw Jason Demers going back to the Arizona Coyotes. The Panthers thought that McGinn who had twice scored 20 or more goals in a season would add some scoring punch, some grit, and some physicality. In his first season he played mostly on the 3rd line, did an admirable job, saw some time on the second line and a few minutes of activity on the power play. He scored 13 goals and had 29 helpers in his first season with the Panthers, and was being paid $3.3 million dollars. On a team that was frugal in their spending, that seemed like a lot of money for not so great a return.
Let’s get to this past season where McGinn played in only 19 games due to having back surgery, which was announced shortly before the season began. That announcement further explained the need and the signing of forward Troy Brouwer, who essentially took over McGinn’s role and for much less. If you listen to former coach Bob Boughner talk about the injury to McGinn, you’ll hear that his back was giving McGinn issues during the 17-18 campaign. Also of note, McGinn had a similar surgery on his back when he was with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2014 season. Back surgery can be be very tricky, and the recovery has to be complete before making your return so as not to re-injure it again. Or worse, “favor” it and then hurt something else.
McGinn missed 54 games last season and finally returned to the lineup in February where he made his season debut against the Dallas Stars. McGinn appeared in 19 games for the Panthers averaging 10:41 TOI. He scored 4 goals and had 3 assists playing primarily on the 4th line. From this observers view McGinn appeared to be faster, and quicker, and seemed to have a bit more “jump” in his game. Always among the leaders on the teams he played for in hits, he added 34 indicating that he wasn’t afraid to play the body. In order for McGinn to be of value, he has to be physical. He needs to be in front of the net causing some chaos for the opposing goaltender. His best work is the crease, behind the net and in the corners.
Final grade: Incomplete. Sorry @KLinFL but there’s no way to grade him on what was a very limited amount of action, and it also wouldn’t be fair to McGinn. While I liked most of what I saw in his small time capsule of the season, it wasn’t enough to give a fair assessment.
That being said, McGinn turns 31 in August. He’s certainly not old, but he’s getting on the wrong side of 30 and he’s had 2 back surgeries within 4 years. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and personally I would find it hard to sign him at his previous salary ($3.3 million). Does he return to the Panthers? The bigger question here is, do the Panthers have room for him and are there less expensive more certain healthy options?
If you bring McGinn back, it would be in a 4th line role. He could be the extra forward the team carries and rotates among Brouwer, Lammikko and Sceviour. As for the salary, there would have ti be a drastic cut in pay, and not commit to more than 2 years. You need to see how the back responds to a full season, and if McGinn injures it again, it could be career ending. With the style of play he brings, it’s something to be very concerned about.
While many of you would like to see McGinn come back, you need to be realistic and be smart in your thinking. The Panthers have a very important off season upon them. Likely the most important off season of their existence. Although we’ve said that before, this time it’s for real. From a business standpoint any salary McGinn is given as part of being a member of the Panthers needs to be on the lower end. Additionally I think you let him test the market as well. Again, there are less expensive, healthier and younger options. Dryden Hunt comes to mind.
Final thought. There may or may not be room for McGinn on the Panthers this coming season. If there isn’t it shows significant progress and that then organEYEzation feels that it has enough of the right parts to ice a very competitive team. If that should happen I wish McGinn the best of luck in landing someplace else to continue his career. If however he does have a place here it doesn’t mean anything other than the Panthers feel that he can be a contributor until the next player(s) are ready. This isn’t just a decision about finances, it’s a decision about the direction of the team, and the trust of the players that will be part of the success that the Panthers are looking for.
Thanks for reading.
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