The Florida Panthers signed free agent centre Kevin Stenlund to a one-year contract at the opening bell of free agency Saturday. Stenlund’s deal carries a $1 million cap hit for its only season. Stenlund, 26, entered the NHL via the entry draft in 2015 when the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted him in the second round.
Kevin Stenlund to Florida 1×1
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2023
Florida Panthers Sign Kevin Stenlund to Contract
In 54 games last season for the Winnipeg Jets, Stenlund scored six goals and added three assists. That stood as his first season outside of Columbus, where he played the first four years of his career. He never played a full NHL season, with last year sitting as the first time he found himself in the lineup in at least half of his team’s games.
In a grand total of 125 games played, Stenlund has 17 goals and 12 assists for 29 points. He averaged 12:21 in ice time per game over those first five years. His relative Corsi-for over that same period sits in the negative as well. As a former second-round pick, one might expect more of him thus far. That said, he enters the prime years of his career right now. Maybe a new location and team spurs the change he needs to find that next gear.
What this Means for the Future
From the Panthers’ end, Stenlund’s contract offers little to no risk. This is a depth move, to add competition in the bottom half of their lineup. They now have 12 forwards with NHL experience under contract, but certainly doesn’t indicate they’re done.
Besides, they have young forwards with RFA status who likely return too. That includes Grigori Denisenko and Aleksi Heponiemi, both of which desire to crack the Panthers’ lineup for full-time jobs. This may happen next year.
Stenlund hopes to carve out a role in Florida for himself, however. For that to happen, he needs a strong camp in the fall. Expect more names in the mix here too; the Eastern Conference Champions will want all the competition in camp that they can get. They fix their eyes on a Cup run, this next season and beyond.
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