The Florida Panthers did not have the season that they were hoping to have. The organization has been a bit of a mess with all the turnover in the front office, and behind the bench.
Now, the Panthers will once again try to find their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dale Tallon is back as general manager, and Bob Boughner is the new bench boss.
The team has a new look but has lost several valuable pieces this offseason. They will need their guys to step up this season for the team to improve.
Evgenii Dadonov (RW)
The Russian winger has rejoined the Panthers once again this season after a five-year stint in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he rebuilt his career and became a successful scorer. With 30 goals and 66 points with SKA Saint Petersburg, Dadonov became a reliable winger, something he wasn’t in the past.
The problem is that Florida don’t know how his game is going to translate to the NHL. Dadonov has tried to earn a permanent spot on the Panthers roster three times but never made an impression. He has 20 points in 55 NHL games, but his last game was in 2012.
The Panthers need to keep their expectations low and give Dadonov time to adjust to the NHL game.
Radim Vrbata (RW)
The journeyman joins Florida, the seventh NHL franchise of his career. Vrbata was able to put up 20 goals on a Coyotes team that was spiraling last season. In fact, Vrbata turned 36 in June, but his production has not slowed yet. The Czech can consistently put up between 40-60 points in a season, and at the price of $2.5 million, Vrbata can contribute to a team in need of offense.
Bob Boughner (Coach)
Boughner is the only other notable acquisition by the club. He has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks. Boughner also spent eight years as head coach of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. He led the Spitfires to back-to-back championships in 2009, and 2010. Boughner’s lack of NHL coaching experience could cause a struggle early.
Jaromir Jagr (RW)
Jagr, the ageless wonder, and the Panthers mutually decided to move on from each other this offseason. Jagr was a leader for the Panthers and his presence will be missed in the locker room and on the ice. He collected 16 goals, 30 assists and played all 82 games last season. Half of his goals were power play tallies.
Jonathan Marchessault (C)
Marchessault is a Vegas Golden Knight. The Panthers lost the 30-goal scorer to the NHL Expansion Draft in June. He was one of the Panthers bright spots in their disappointing season, but the Panthers chose not to protect the 26-year-old.
Reilly Smith (RW)
Smith had a somewhat disappointing season last year, with his production going down by 13 points. Smith was shipped off to Las Vegas for cap relief reasons.
Jussi Jokinen (RW)
The Panthers bought out Jokinen this summer, as he didn’t fit the direction the team was headed.
Moving on up
Denis Malgin (C)
Malgin spent time with the club last season but is now poised to take a full-time roster spot. Malgin was only able to put up ten points in 47 games last year, but with a year under his belt, he has the opportunity to earn more time and produce.
Jared McCann (C)
McCann is a somewhat forgotten prospect, who has the skill to play at the NHL level. His growth was somewhat stunted after Vancouver threw him straight into the fire, but with a little more time learning the club’s system, he may be able to make the jump mid-season.
What can the Panthers achieve this season?
The Panthers do have the talent to make a splash in the NHL. A healthy Aaron Ekblad is going to be key to the Panthers success. His concussion issue needs to be fully resolved and handled with care before he skates. Without a major blow in the injury department, the Panthers can sneak into a wild card spot with a little luck.
The Panthers are more likely to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in their division. They are better than the Red Wings, but right now the Canadiens, Lightning, Maple Leafs, and Senators are ahead of the Panthers.
If the Panthers can make a splash at the deadline and acquire some top-line talent that is available, then they definitely have the talent to make the playoffs.
Florida need to be ready and finish with the management turnover before anything can be considered a success.
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