Offseason Analysis: FLORIDA PANTHERS

jagr huberdeau

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 38-29-15-91
Home Record: 21-13-7
Away Record: 17-16-8
Shootout Record: 8-10
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Atlantic Division: 6, Eastern Conference: 10, League: 20
Goals For: 198 (NHL rank: 25)
Goals Against: 213 (NHL rank: 15)
Power Play Percentage: 16.3 percent (NHL rank: 24)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80 percent (NHL rank: 24)
Leading Scorer: Jonathan Huberdeau (15-39-54)
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

The Panthers made a strong playoff push last season and fell just short of earning a playoff spot. The team showed flashes of brilliance on and off throughout the season, and with a little more support goaltender Roberto Luongo should be able to carry this team into the playoffs. The team has the talent at each position to make a strong push, and in a weak Atlantic Division it is possible that the team will not only make the playoffs but could even advance to the second round. Obviously the season has only just begun and there is way too much hockey left to be played before predictions are warranted; however, the Panthers’ young stars are one year older and one year wiser and are poised to have breakout seasons in 2015-2016. Veteran winger Jaromir Jagr, who is still great at age 43, is enjoying playing with the young stars on the Panthers, and Jaromir Jagr having fun is never a bad thing.
 

Season Opener: Saturday October 10 @ Philadelphia, 7:00pm EST
Opening night roster
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • 2015 5th-round pick (147) to New York Islanders for 2016 5th-round pick
  • Rights to F Jimmy Hayes to Boston for F Reilly Smith and contract of F Marc Savard
  • Rights to F Zach Hyman and 2017 7th-round pick to Toronto for F Gregg McKegg

Re-Signed:

  • F Garrett Wilson (1-year contract at $675,000)
  • F Corban Knight (1-year contract at $750,000)
  • F Greg McKegg (1-year contract at $700,000)
  • F John McFarland (1-year contract at $850,500)
  • F Quinton Howden (1-year contract at $850,500)
  • D Alex Petrovic (2-year deal with AAV* of $1.05 million)
  • F Jonathan Huberdeau (2-year deal with AAV* of $3.25 million)
  • F Brett Olson (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Lawson Crouse (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • D Michael Matheson (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • F Kyle Rau (2-year ELC with AAV* of $858,750)

Free Agents Signed:

  • G Mike McKenna (2-year deal with AAV* of $575,000)
  • D Cameron Gaunce (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • D Brent Regner (2-year deal with AAV* of $600,000)
  • F Rob Flick (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Chase Balisy (2-year deal with AAV* of $635,000)
  • D Sena Acolatse (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Shane Harper (1-year contract at $575,000)
  • F Lukas Sutter–PTO
  • F Josh Birkholz–PTO
  • G Sergei Gayduchenko–PTO
  • F Martin Havlat–PTO (later released)
  • F David Booth–PTO (later released)

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (11) LW Lawson Crouse
  • Round 3 (77) G Samuel Montembeault
  • Round 3 (88) D Thomas Schemitsch
  • Round 4 (102) C Denis Malgin
  • Round 5 (132) LW Karch Bachman
  • Round 6 (162) RW Christopher Wilkie
  • Round 7 (192) C Patrick Shea
  • Round 7 (206) G Ryan Bednard

Notable Extensions:
None

Free Agents Lost:

  • G Dan Ellis–Washington
  • D Shane O’Brien–Anaheim
  • F Scottie Upshall–St. Louis
  • D Blake Parlett–Medvescak Zagreb (KHL-Russia)
  • F Bobby Butler–MODO (Sweden)
  • D Jesse Blacker–UFA
  • G Michael Houser–UFA
  • F Ryan Martindale–UFA
  • D Josh McFadden–UFA
  • F Tomas Kopecky–UFA
  • F Andrew Yogan–UFA
  • D Greg Zanon–UFA
  • F Dany Heatley–UFA
  • D Shayne Taker–UFA

Buyouts:
Brad Boyes
Cap hits:
$958,333 (Year 1), $833,333 (Year 2)
(refer to GeneralFanager for more info)
 

Organizational Changes:

  • Named Scott Luce director of player personnel
  • Named Billy Ryan amateur scout
  • Named Pierre Groulx goalie development coach and scout
  • Named Dakota King equipment assistant
  • Named Steve Squier massage therapist
  • Named Brian Godin equipment manager
  • Named Stiles Burr video and travel coordinator for Portland (AHL)
  • Announced the contract of director of player development Brian Skrudland will not be renewed

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

The Panthers were not very active in the offseason aside from re-signing a few free agents and drafting power forward Lawson Crouse. The team did make one trade, however. Here is the most significant move the Panthers made this offseason, and how it will affect this upcoming season:

The Jimmy Hayes/Reilly Smith Trade:

smith

Reilly Smith
USA TODAY Sports

jimmy hayes

Jimmy Hayes
Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

The Panthers traded the rights to right winger Jimmy Hayes to Boston in exchange for right winger Reilly Smith and the contract of Marc Savard. This deal helps both teams at the forward position, as Hayes is a big physical threat and Smith is a more polished offensive weapon.

Though Savard will be (and has been) put on LTIR at the start of the season due to long-term concussion problems that will keep him out of the NHL for the duration of his contract, it helps the Panthers manage the team’s cap situation. Savard’s contract, originally a 7-year $28.15 million deal, will help the team reach the salary cap floor with the $4.03 million cap hit this year and next year; however, the team will only have to pay $575,000 in salary, which makes this a solid move for the team. This move is almost identical to the one made by the Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes involving the contract of Chris Pronger. The move also adds $1.125 million to Florida’s cap as Smith makes $3.425 million for the next two years compared to the contract Hayes signed with Boston fro three years with an average annual value of $2.3 million.

Hayes was originally drafted by Toronto in the second round (60) in the 2008 draft. In the past two seasons with Florida, Hayes has scored 18 points and 35 points, respectively; however, he only played in 53 games in 2013-2014 and 72 games last season. In 168 career games, Hayes has accumulated 66 points (36 goals, 30 assists).

Smith, drafted by Dallas in the third round (69) in the 2009 draft, had been with the Bruins for the past two seasons after being acquired as part of the Tyler Seguin deal. Though Smith had an excellent season in 2013-2014 (20-31-51), excelling on a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, his numbers dropped last season (13-27-40) and he was not as effective. In 12 playoff games with the Bruins, Smith scored 5 points (4 goals and 1 assist). In 203 career NHL games, Smith has scored 36 goals and 64 assists for a total of 100 points.

Though the two forwards are both talented right wingers capable of playing top-six minutes, Hayes is a more unique asset in today’s NHL given his size, his grit and his ability to go to the front of the net and get to the dirty areas. Even though Smith is talented and will be successful in Florida, Hayes seems to be more of a commodity and therefore slightly more valuable. However, Smith is more of an established top-six forward and can most likely contribute more than Hayes this year. In any case, Florida is not in need of young talent as the team is already stacked with young stars and talented prospects, so the move will not have any repercussions.
 
 

Possible Line Combinations

It seemed as though recently-drafted winger Lawson Crouse was a lock to make the team for at least nine games to begin the season, but Florida has returned Crouse to his OHL team. The Panthers also waived defenseman Dylan Olsen and forward Garrett Wilson for the purpose of sending them to the team’s AHL affiliate. Veteran forward Martin Havlat was on the roster on a tryout basis for a few weeks but has been released. As a result, Connor Brickley will make the team out of the gate. Here is what Florida’s line combinations could look like for the start of the 2015-2016 season:
 

Forwards
Huberdeau-Barkov-Jagr
Pirri-Bjugstad-Smith
Jokinen-Bolland-Trocheck
Brickley-MacKenzie-Thornton

Defensemen
Campbell-Ekblad
Kulikov-Mitchell
Gudbranson-Petrovic

Goalies
Luongo
Montoya
 

Disagree?

Explain in the comments below!
 

Final Thoughts

The Florida Panthers will be a very difficult team to compete against this season. Though the team did not make many offseason adjustments, the Panthers’ organization is stacked with up-and-coming talent and has a strong variety of talented veteran players and leaders. Someone like Jaromir Jagr will make a huge impact on this season and will teach the young players how to train and how to compete, which will help the franchise for years to come. Roberto Luongo enters his second season with the Panthers and is poised to have an even better year than last year. With excellent goaltending, solid defense and ample forwards with scoring ability, the Panthers are in great shape and should make the playoffs this year.
 

 
Featured image credit: Joel Auerbach-Getty Images