Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for the Florida Panthers, they got worse.
Today, the club announced that Kris Versteeg — the team’s second-leading goalscorer from a year ago — will undergo season-ending knee surgery.
Versteeg, 26, played a key role in snapping Florida’s lengthy playoff drought a season ago, notching 23G-31A-54PTS in 71 games and finishing third on the team in scoring.
This season, though, had been largely frustrating.
Versteeg’s only played in 10 of Florida’s 27 games after dealing with both groin and chest injuries. On Tuesday — just his third game back from the chest ailment — he was hit by Tampa Bay’s Radko Gudas and forced to leave the contest with the knee injury that would ultimately end his season.
It was just the latest for a Florida team that’s had health issues all season long.
Stephen Weiss, the longest-tenured player on the roster, was lost for the year with a wrist injury. Goalie Jose Theodore is unlikely to return after tearing his groin while Ed Jovanovski, Dmitry Kulikov, Scottie Upshall and Mike Weaver are all currently on injured reserve.
As a result, the Panthers have been forced to dig deep into the organizational depth chart for bodies — unearthing the likes of Nolan Yonkman (a 31-year-old journeyman that’s played six games) and Jon Rheault (a 26-year-old rookie).
The Vertseeg and Weiss injuries also hurt off the ice.
Both were rumored to be potential trade assets at the deadline, given Florida is all but out of the playoff picture. Weiss is an impending UFA and Versteeg has three seasons remaining on his four-year, $17.6 million deal.