The Florida Panthers have been busy so far this off-season. Dale Tallon has moved upstairs to become President of Hockey Operations and Tom Rowe is now the general manager. Two trades have already been made and significant cap space has been cleared. Are the Florida Panthers positioning themselves to be major players this NHL off-season?
Florida Panthers Positioning Themselves as Major Players this NHL Off-Season
New GM Calling the Shots
Rowe has wasted no time putting his mark on the Panthers. First he moved Erik Gudbranson and a 5th round pick to Vancouver for Jared McCann and the Vancouver Canucks 2nd (33rd overall) and 4th round picks in this year’s draft. A couple of days ago Rowe shipped Marc Savard and his $4.1 million dollar cap hit along with the Panthers 2nd round pick in 2018 to the New Jersey Devils for Paul Thompson and Graham Black.
These two trades cleared nearly $7 million in cap space. Florida can now move Dave Bolland to long term injury reserve on their cap and clear another $5.5 million for next season. If Bolland is moved to LTIR, Florida will have $45.0 million committed to the cap with having to sign restricted free agent Vincent Trocheck. The signs are there that the Panthers could become very big players this off-season.
— Miami Herald Sports (@HeraldSports) May 16, 2016
Going Big Game Hunting?
With Gudbranson gone and pending unrestricted free agent Brian Campbell going to weigh his options in free agency, the Panthers could make a big push for Keith Yandle come July 1st. Yandle the puck moving blue liner would give Florida another top defensemen who would greatly aid their power play. The Panthers power play has been very sub-par the last couple of seasons. Last year Florida’s power play finished with a regular season ranking of 23rd.
The Panthers could also very well be in the market for a top six forward as well. Milan Lucic given his unique skill set of scorer, physical presence, size, experience and leadership would be a huge player for this young Florida Panthers team. There are other options in free agency for the Panthers to consider as well such as Steven Stamkos, Loui Eriksson and Kyle Okposo.
— SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (@SiriusXMNHL) June 11, 2016
Salary Cap Heaven
Saying the Florida Panthers have salary cap flexibility is a huge understatement. Not only are the Panthers nearly $30 million under the salary cap ceiling but they also have Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Roberto Luongo signed to long term deals. In the next year or two Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen cap numbers will come off the books as well. That’s another $8 million in cap savings.
The Panthers have been very smart regarding managing their salary cap. I expect them to be proactive in signing Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad to long term deals that work well for both the player and the organization. It’s no accident the Panthers are in salary cap heaven.
The Panthers are coming off a season where they won the Atlantic division with 103 points. Their season ended in the first round of the playoffs thanks to the New York Islanders. The Panthers have lofty goals for next season and beyond.