The Florida Panthers announced today that veteran forward and former captain Derek MacKenzie has undergone successful shoulder surgery which will keep him out of the lineup indefinitely. The surgery had been planned since before the team left for their games in Finland, given the injury he suffered on opening night. MacKenzie is in the final year of his current contract, and played fewer than three minutes of ice time before coming out of the game earlier this year.
If this is the end for MacKenzie, who will turn 38 in June, it has been a successful run. After being selected in the fifth round in 1999 by the Atlanta Thrashers, it took him a decade to establish himself as a full-time NHL player. That came in 2010-11 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he played in 63 games and set a career-high with 23 points. The nine goals he scored that year were the closest he’d come to double digits, but he was valued nonetheless as a bottom-six player and emotional leader on both Columbus and then Florida.
Named captain of the Panthers in 2016 after Willie Mitchell retired, MacKenzie held the position for two seasons before relinquishing the “C” to Aleksander Barkov this summer. Though he was not scheduled to wear a letter this year, MacKenzie is still a huge part of the leadership group in Florida and his presence is notoriously missing on the ice. The former Calder Cup champion has 611 career regular season games under his belt in the NHL, but never was able to get his teams to even the second round of the playoffs. If he can get back on the ice before the season is over, the Panthers will clearly welcome him with open arms. If not, it’s been a career to be proud of and one that has stretched nearly two decades.