With the start of the regular season just one day away, we continue to look at each team’s off-season and preview the upcoming year. Today, we focus on the Florida Panthers.
Last Season: 47-26-9 (103 points), Finished 1st in the Atlantic Division. Lost 4-2 to the New York Islanders in the first round.
Remaining Cap Space: $9.71MM per CapFriendly
Key Newcomers: Keith Yandle (Acquired from New York Rangers), Jonathan Marchessault (free agent), Colton Sceviour (free agent), Jared McCann (Acquired from Vancouver), Jason Demers (free agent), Mark Pysyk (Acquired from Buffalo), James Reimer (free agent).
Players To Watch: Keith Yandle: The Panthers acquired him from New York and then signed him to a monster seven-year deal worth $44.45MM. So now the question is if the Panthers will get the return on investment. Yandle had a great season with New York in 2015-16, and is still only thirty years of age. Though the length of the term and a cap hit of $6.35MM will hurt in latter years, it’s right now that matters. Yandle will quarterback the power play, a place where the Panthers needed help. Further, he gives a tremendous 1-2 punch with Aaron Ekblad.
Key Storyline: How will the Panthers fare knowing that Jonathan Huberdeau is out for the next three to four months? This is a team that was busy in the offseason after a disappointing postseason result, and bolstered their blue line significantly with the additions of Demers, Yandle, and Pysyk. Huberdeau’s injury, however, could be a tough hole to fill as he accounted for 59 points (20-39) last season and was third on the team in points and goals. The loss is huge, and how the Panthers respond for the first half of the season should dictate their season. However, depth is not a weakness for the Florida, and should they be able to tread water during Huberdeau’s absence, his return will only bolster an already strong team on paper.