The biggest free agent signing for the Florida Panthers so far this “quiet” summer has been Chris Higgins ,who last year split time with the New York Rangers and the Calgary Flames. Higgins was part of the deal that sent former Panther Olli Jokinen from Calgary to New York. As you know, Olli is back with the Flames for this upcoming season.
So who is this guy, and more importantly what happened to him after a somewhat promising career? Well, I don’t think anyone really knows for sure. Higgins a former first round pick (14th overall) of the Montreal Canadiens in 2002, has had some tough luck over the last couple years after a pretty decent start. Higgins is still only 27 years old as he heads into what should be the prime of his career.
At 6′ tall and 200 lbs, he’s not big, and he’s not physical per se, but is more known for his quickness, skating ability and skating speed. He’s three years removed from a 27 goal season, which also saw him score 22, and 23 goals in the two years previous to that. So yes, he can put the puck in the net. Why though has he seem to have hit a wall?
Not to spread any rumours about him cause I don’t know any, the only thing that I have come to find is he’s had some trouble with nagging injuries, and has been misplaced on lines, therefore either having lost confidence and the ability to be in position to score, or be able to create chances to score. He spent alot of time on the third line for the Rangers, and that’s probably not the best use for him. He even was demoted to fourth line minutes here and there. Upon his trade to Calgary he was shuffled a bit, and ended up with only 2 goals in 12 games, finishing the season with eight goals in 67 games. His worst season to date. Truly not at all what was expected of him when he was drafted.
Groin, ankle, foot, and hand injuries have bothered him throughout his career. Nagging, yet serious enough to stunt his growth, and or consistency. In 2007-2008 with Montreal he scored 27 goals and had 22 assists for 57 points for his best season. That’s the production that General Manager Dale Tallon is expecting from Higgins this year. Can he deliver is the question that we all have. While it’s defintely not a fancy or huge signing, the other side of the coin is that unlike in the past, there is little downside to this.
His contract is for one year. It’s for $1.6 million dollars. If he flops, we either trade him at the deadline, or let him go after the season is over. However, if he finds his scoring touch again, and proves that he is a consistent goal scorer, then it’s a deal that will work out for both sides.
Think of all the recent free agent signings in the past that were for too many years, at some really stupid amounts. Ville Koistenenenenen comes to mind. Also, think about the typical 33-35 year old journeymen who has come here to convalesce in sunny Florida. Cory Stillman, Steven Reinprecht, etc. This is a deal that again, won’t excite anyone, but if it works, Tallon looks like a mastermind.
I personally am hoping that Higgy finds it (his scoring touch, and not South Beach) while he’s here. I don’t expect miracles from him,and neither should you. If he can get to 22-25 goals playing hard and consistently every night, then what’s not to like? If he stinks up the joint then so what, trade him or let him go after the season is over.
I have to think though at 27 years old, he has something to prove. Not only to us, but more importantly to himself.
Thanks for reading.
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