Tag: Florida Panthers

Boston Bruins v Florida Panthers

Panthers’ biggest question: Can the old guys hang on while the young guys get better?


The Florida Panthers are a bit of an odd team, in terms of their mix.

They have Jaromir Jagr, who at 43 is the oldest player in the NHL by a considerable margin. They also have a couple of 38-year-olds in Willie Mitchell and Shawn Thornton, plus a couple of 36-year-olds in Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell.

Yet you can’t call the Panthers an old team. These aren’t the New Jersey Devils we’re talking about here.

Not with 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad, the league’s reigning rookie of the year, and 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau, who received the same honor in 2013.

Also, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Petrovic, and Dylan Olsen. All of them under 25 years of age.

Oh, and don’t forget Lawson Crouse, the 18-year-old winger that could make the team. And Rocco Grimaldi, the 22-year-old forward who had 42 points 64 AHL games last season.

You get the point.

“We’ve got young players that are very capable of playing for us next year,” said GM Dale Tallon. “We don’t want to shut the door on that. We want those guys to get every opportunity to be on our team. I want to be the youngest team in the league and the best team in the league at the same time.”

The key next season will be for the old guys to hang on while the young guys get better. If that happens, the Panthers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, and even making some noise once they get there.

On the other hand, if key veterans like Jagr, Campbell and Luongo start showing their age and/or the youngsters experience too many growing pains, they could stumble.

Related: Roberto Luongo is under pressure

Under Pressure: Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo

Did you know that 36-year-old Roberto Luongo is now the second-oldest goalie in the NHL?

It’s true. The only one who’s older and still under contract is Minnesota’s 37-year-old Niklas Backstrom.

Luongo, of course, is very much under contract. He’s signed through 2021-22, to one of those front-loaded, back-diving deals they don’t allow anymore.

But you can forget the cap-recapture consequences for now, because Luongo is also coming off an excellent season, one in which he started 61 games for the Panthers and registered a .921 save percentage. Which is to say, he didn’t look like a guy on the verge of retirement.

Coach Gerard Gallant called Luongo “our MVP, our best player most nights.”

If Florida is to take a run at a playoff spot in 2015-16, Luongo will, in all likelihood, need to be just as good. The Panthers’ backup is Al Montoya, the 30-year-old who struggled last season (.892 SV%) and has just 88 NHL starts with four different teams to his name.

And make no mistake, the Panthers have their eyes on a playoff spot. They made a late surge last season after acquiring Jaromir Jagr, only to fall a few points short.

“We went toe-to-toe with everybody this year,” Luongo said at season’s end, per FOX Sports Florida. “The good teams, we played them well and we won some games. It’s just a matter of growing as a team, getting a bit more experience and taking the next step.

“We took a huge step this year, but we fell a little bit short. It’s really a matter of putting it all together next year.”

It’s Florida Panthers day at PHT

Roberto Luongo

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Florida Panthers.

For the third season in a row, the Florida Panthers fell short of the playoffs.

This time around, there were signs of moderate progress, as they finished 10th overall in the East with a 38-28-15 record (91 points). Final wild card team Pittsburgh finished seven points ahead of them, so there’s still work to do.

For especially jaded fans, this may sound like a broken record, yet the team’s extreme mix of potential and experience could make for intriguing results.

At one end, you have veteran star power with Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo. They even have Brian Campbell for one more year, as his oft-cited $7.14 million cap hit will expire after 2015-16.

On the other end, a bountiful crop of young players earned from all these years of underwhelming play.

Aaron Ekblad won the 2015 Calder Trophy, while this year’s first-rounder Lawson Crouse may also make an immediate impact. Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are all showing varying degrees of promise. Bjugstad’s the oldest of these young players, and he’s just 23.

Expectations should climb in Gerard Gallant’s second season as head coach, at least from those who are paying attention to a team that frequently slips under the radar.

Off-season recap

For the most part, the Panthers stayed idle in free agency, either letting veterans walk (Tomas Kopecky) or shoving them out the door (Brad Boyes). Perhaps re-signing Jagr constitutes their “big splash,” then?

They did make one eyebrow-raising move in adding Marc Savard’s contract in a deal that sent Jimmy Hayes to the Boston Bruins for Reilly Smith.

Florida seems content with letting its young players continue to grow alongside Jagr and Luongo.