It wasn’t long ago that the Florida Panthers were working toward a long-term extension with defenseman Alex Petrovic. Coming off the best season of his young career in 2015-16, the then-24-year-old looked like he was blossoming into an elite two-way defenseman. Injuries struck last season, but Petrovic nonetheless saw increased ice time and an uptick in both offensive and defensive per-game numbers. He was rewarded by being protected in this summer’s Expansion Draft.
Yet, today the team’s position on Petrovic has changed and he’s taking notice. While Petrovic and the Panthers avoided arbitration with a one-year extension this summer, he’s had to sit back and watch fellow blue liners with less time spent in Florida sign long-term deals in Mark Pysyk and Michael Matheson. Now he’s watching the likes of Ian McCoshen and MacKenzie Weegar take his ice time away too. Petrovic has been a healthy scratch in nine of the Panthers’ 20 games this season and, as he tells the Miami Sun-Sentinal’s Matthew DeFranks, he’s sick of it.
“I think (the coaches) just don’t have the confidence in me when I’m out there to keep (making me a healthy scratch) for some reason,” Petrovic said. “I couldn’t tell you why. It is what it is. I just got to keep proving myself every day.” DeFranks describes Petrovic’s scratches as unusual, as the determined defender tends to watch games from the ground level rather than the press box and works out during period breaks. No amount of effort or showing of dedication seems to make a differences though; Petrovic hasn’t suited up since November 9th and “lines of communication between him and the coaching staff have evaporated”, DeFranks writes.
New Florida head coach Bob Boughner has done his best to de-emphasize the issues between he and his staff and Petrovic, but sooner or later the Panthers are either going to have to start playing their homegrown product or trade him away. Petrovic has shown a commitment to being in the lineup and, when active, has the numbers to prove improvement of the past two seasons. Teams will line up to get a young, physical defenseman on an upward trend offensively and defensively. GM Dale Tallon simply needs to decide whether he wants to take advantage of that value or keep that asset to himself, and he needs to decide soon.