Back in October, Panthers center Derek MacKenzie suffered a shoulder injury in the season-opener against Tampa Bay. He underwent successful surgery in November and at the time, there was no timeline for a return. It turns out that he will not be returning after all. George Richards of The Athletic reports (subscription required) that MacKenzie’s playing career is over and that he has already transitioned into a coaching role with the team.
The 37-year-old came into the season with the idea that he would retire at its conclusion when his contract expired and ceded the captaincy to Aleksander Barkov at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, the injury has capped his 2018-19 campaign at all of four shifts, taking away the opportunity to go out under his own terms.
MacKenzie’s career comes to a close with 611 career regular season games played between Atlanta, Columbus, and Florida. While he was never a prolific scorer (his career high in goals in a single season was nine), he became a valuable energy center that played with a physical edge, could contribute on the penalty, and be above average at the faceoff dot.
Given that he is under contract for this season, his $1.375MM cap hit will remain on the books for the remainder of the year while he’s on injured reserve. Florida already projects to have $4MM in end-of-season salary cap space per CapFriendly but if the Panthers make a move or two to add salary, they can put MacKenzie’s contract on LTIR to free up some additional cap space if they need to do so.