Heading into Monday’s Trade Deadline, the 2020-21 Florida Panthers found themselves amid a three-game losing streak. During this time, they have only scored three goals for and allowed 12 goals against. While all teams go through ups and downs throughout a season, the timing of the Panthers’ low is a tad concerning. With less than a quarter of the season to go, the Panthers haven’t struggled like this all season—only two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers focused on adding depth players at the deadline to take this team as far as possible.
2020-21 Florida Panthers Add Depth
The Panthers didn’t take big swings at the plate like many had hoped and dreamed for. Instead, Zito went out and grabbed guys that are all low-risk, high reward. Even before we approached that last week or so before the deadline, everyone knew that the Florida Panthers needed forward depth. After the team battled through injuries, it was apparent they needed more than Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, and Jonathan Huberdeau to score. When the ‘Cats’ lost their horse on the backend in Aaron Ekblad, many Panthers fans were concerned with what would happen next.
Instead of waiting around, hoping for the best, Zito went out and did something to fix these issues. Sticking to his guns, the Panthers did what they thought was best for the team now and the organization’s future. Going into the day, Zito had a plan, and nothing would change that. “We had to focus on our team and do the things we need to do, to do our thing. We weren’t reactionary. We had a plan, wanted to address our needs. If we could, we would and wanted to do it prudently.”
Of course, one could argue that there were better options available. Yet, it is never that simple. No matter who Zito truly wanted versus who he got, all he could do is play the cards he was dealt. Making the most of what he is given, Zito has done everything right this season. Who is to say he doesn’t have another trick up his sleeve?
Florida Panther Forward Group Bolstered
Bringing in Sam Bennett, the Panthers add a significant depth piece. They needed a bottom-six centre and Bennett will quickly fill that role. While many believe this deal was an “extreme overpayment,” this writer thought Bennett would be a good option for the Panthers before the deal happened. With this 2020-21 Florida Panthers team being arguably the best in franchise history, they need to do whatever it takes to bring this team as far as possible.
Adding Bennett is an addition for the playoffs. His 30 career playoff games are the most on the Panthers. In those games, Bennett scored 11 goals and eight assists, 107 hits, and 71 shots on goal. In his past six seasons with the Flames, Bennett was the team leader in hits with 678. While Bennett may never fulfill his first-rounder potential, he still has plenty to offer the Panthers come playoff time.
The Panthers also added forwards Nikita Gusev and Lucas Wallmark. The Panthers, once again, added forward depth at a low price. Combining the two players’ salaries, the Panthers are paying them $1,950,000 total—a significant deal for guys that will improve the forward group. Bringing in Wallmark means the team will have a good, responsible defensive-minded centre. While adding Gusev could mean you’ve added depth scoring. Despite a down season, placing Gusev with this forward group could help him find his scoring touch. With 44 points in his first NHL season, the Panthers hope a change of scenery will help gain that confidence back.
Additions to the Blueline
When it comes to the blueline, the Panthers were in dire need of an Ekblad replacement. While you cannot replace an elite-level defenceman playing his best hockey, you can bring in two young defensemen at a low price to recoup some of your losses. Ever since Ebklad’s injury, the Panthers’ power-play has gone downhill. Brandon Montour won’t replace Ekblad but he should help the Panthers sagging power play. As a puck-moving defenseman who likes to jump into the rush, Montour will add depth to the blue line. And will hopefully bring the power-play back to normal. Sometimes it is just about being placed in the right situation, with the right people, to shine genuinely.
Next from Montour, the Panthers also brought in defensive prospect Lucas Carlsson. A former fourth-round draft pick, Carlsson has recorded some decent numbers in the minors. Playing in 124 American Hockey League games, he scored 15 goals and 47 assists for 62 points. Even though Carlsson has some NHL experience, he will most likely be a part of the taxi squad moving forward. He may get some time in before the regular season comes to an end but is mostly a depth addition.
Praise for Bill Zito
With all Bill Zito has done for the Panther this season; he should be a serious front-runner for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year award. He assembled a fast-paced, fun, and exciting hockey team. Everyone in South Florida should be more than excited for what the future holds. It has been a long time since the Panthers have been this good. They have been a genuine surprise to most this season. With the Panthers strong play this year, it’s only natural to start wondering if they can carry it over into the playoffs. In a game that is as much luck as it is a skill, once the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around, anything can happen.