After being cut loose by the San Jose Sharks, Rudolfs Balcers has found a new home in Florida. The Panthers have signed the young forward to a one-year contract, with general manager Bill Zito releasing the following statement:
Rudolfs is a hard-working playmaker who competes with pace and skill. His energy and competitiveness will complement our lineup well.
Given the lack of cap space the Panthers are dealing with, they’ve decided to make some calculated gambles on younger players who fell out of favor with their most recent clubs. Balcers joins Colin White as 25-year-olds who were bought out this week and have now found new contracts with Florida.
In 61 games with San Jose last season, the talented Latvian forward registered 11 goals and 23 points, setting career-highs in both marks. Despite his lack of any real success so far, scouts have always believed there was more offense in Balcers, offense he has shown repeatedly at the World Championships and AHL level, where he is routinely a point-per-game kind of player.
With a history of turning projects into players, the Panthers will try again to put Balcers in a position to succeed and capitalize on that offensive talent. He joins a loaded forward group as a versatile piece that will likely move up and down the lineup throughout the year.
There is at least a bit of “last chance” vibes with Balcers, though that may end up being more motivation than anything else.