The Florida Panthers officially have agreed to terms with Dryden Hunt, Thomas Schemitsch and Jayce Hawryluk on one-year two-way contracts. Hawryluk’s agreement had been previously reported, with CapFriendly noting that he had accepted his qualifying offer worth $874K in the NHL. The other two will earn $715K at the NHL level. All three will still be restricted free agents next summer.
Hunt, 23, is one of the players who has quietly developed into a legitimate NHL option for the Panthers the last few seasons. Undrafted out of the WHL, Hunt ended up exploding in his final year of junior to the tune of 58 goals and 116 points in 72 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors. Jumping to the professional ranks didn’t slow him down, and he has now posted consecutive 23-goal seasons for the AHL Springfield Thunderbirds, despite spending time in both seasons with the Panthers. In 42 NHL games he has 11 points, and he heads into 2019-20 as a player fighting for a role on an improved team. If he can make it, it’s hard to bet against a player that has been overlooked for so long but defied the odds at every opportunity.
Hawryluk is another player who will be battling for a chance to start the year in the NHL, but comes with a much higher draft pedigree. The 32nd overall pick in 2014 made his NHL debut last season, suiting up 42 times for the Panthers and recorded 12 points. Hawryluk has proven he can hang in the bottom-six for the Panthers, but with additions like Brett Connolly and Noal Acciari lengthening out the lineup, there is no guarantee he sees a full season this year.
Schemitsch, 22, is the only one of the three yet to make his debut in the NHL but is not to be overlooked. The third round pick from 2015 had 24 points in 56 games for Springfield while also having the size and reach to handle defensive coverage at the professional level. The 6’4″ defenseman will continue to try and take the necessary developmental steps to make it to the highest level, though things are a little crowded there after the addition of Anton Stralman in free agency.