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.
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.