Tag: Aleksander Barkov

Florida Panthers v Buffalo Sabres

With 11th overall pick, Panthers looking to add ‘one more final piece’ to the core


On paper, the Florida Panthers have all the makings of a future Stanley Cup contender.

Talented, young forwards already in the organization include Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, and Rocco Grimaldi. Meanwhile, on the back end, they’ve got a potential Norris Trophy winner in Aaron Ekblad.

For three of those players, they can thank all the losing they’ve done. The Panthers were able to draft Huberdeau with the third overall pick in 2011, Barkov second overall in 2013, and Ekblad first overall in 2014.

The Panthers also have the third overall pick from the 2010 draft in defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Even if the big, tough 23-year-old has yet to become a star, the club still considers him “one of the building blocks for our team.”

On top of all that, the Panthers have the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft, of which they’ll be the hosts.

“We view this as one of the last pieces that we’re going to acquire at the draft that could really help us get to the next level sooner rather than later,” Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce told the Sun-Sentinel earlier this week.

“We’ve got a good young corps, so we feel that with this draft we can take that final step and add one more final piece to the core that will be our core for hopefully close to the next 10 years.”

In a lot of ways, the Panthers look a lot like their state rivals from Tampa Bay did a few years ago. Remember that the Lightning were able to translate losing seasons into drafting Steven Stamkos with the first overall pick in 2008 and Victor Hedman second overall in 2009.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee the Panthers will have the same success as the Lightning, who’ve done a lot more to build a contender than just draft Stamkos and Hedman.

But Panthers fans have every right to believe a winning team is around the corner, even if most of the national focus on the franchise has been negative.

Agitator extraordinaire Ville Nieminen calls it a career

San Jose Sharks v St. Louis Blues

One of the NHL’s more colorful characters is stepping away from the game.

Ville Nieminen, who appeared in 385 career games with Colorado, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Calgary, San Jose, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, announced his retirement over the weekend after playing his final game in the Finnish League.

Nieminen, 38, made a mark for himself in the vein of former Oilers pest Esa Tikkanen, developing a reputation as a gritty, annoying and yappy forward that could prove important come playoff time. In his first full NHL season, he scored a career-high 14 goals for the Avs during the regular season, then chipped in 10 points in 23 playoff games as Colorado captured the 2001 Stanley Cup.

Three years later, his postseason savvy helped Calgary advance all the way to Game 7 of the ’04 Cup Final, where it would lose to Tampa Bay. Nieminen finished that run with eight points in 24 games and became something of a folk hero in Calgary with his wit and sense of humor (click here for some of his best lines, per the Herald.)

Nieminen’s last NHL season came in St. Louis in 2007. From there, he spent time in the KHL, Swedish and Finnish Leagues before calling it a day. Most recently, he served in a mentor role for Florida’s Aleksander Barkov heading into, and at, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Jagr optimistic about re-signing with Panthers, potentially for two years

Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr was seeing his role decline with the New Jersey Devils, but the trade to the Florida Panthers seems to have done him a lot of good. The 43-year-old has gotten regular minutes with 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov and that’s helped Jagr record 14 points in 18 games with the Panthers.

He’s happy there and it sounds like the Panthers are equally pleased with him. There were even reportedly some preliminary talks between his agent and Panthers GM Dale Tallon about the possibility of a contract extension, although at the time the focus was on the playoff race.

With Florida mathematically eliminated though, it’s time for both sides to look towards the future. Jagr, speaking Czech Daily Sport, expressed an interest in inking a two-year deal with Florida, which is a deviation from his policy since returning from the KHL of only signing one-year contracts.

“It’s still too soon to anticipate anything, but there is a pretty big chance we’ll come to an agreement (with Florida). It depends on the club. If they want to sign me for one year, or for two years,” said Jagr, per NHL.com’s translation. “I did, but let’s see what happens now. It’s too soon to say anything now.”

Florida might ultimately be more comfortable signing Jagr for a single season given his age, but the fact that he’s interested in a two-year deal likely reflects both his feelings about the Panthers and his desire to continue to push the boundaries of how long a player can stay competitive in the modern NHL.