As previously noted in my morning post, the Florida Panthers are having a contest and want the fans to build a roster for the upcoming season. The winner is the person who comes the closest to the actual team, and will win a signed home sweater signed by all the players. Pretty sweet deal. So while you should enter and get a chance to win, I’m going to tell you how I would build this team if I was the General Manager.
Now the first thing we know is that the Panthers will have a ton of money to spend. With their current salary commitment only at $18 million and change, they MUST spend at least $30 million to get to the salary cap floor. Not bad, but the other issue that must be dealt with is that the cap itself has been raised to $64 million, meaning that competition will be stiff for players that they want. Dale Tallon may have to overpay to get some of the players he wants. That could be scary, as the Panthers have been known in the past to toss out some crazy contracts to not only free agents, but some of their own players. Note: I am using either current players that are on the roster or unrestricted free agents.
Without further hesitation, here’s how my lineup would look for this coming season:
Quite a change from what we saw on the ice last year isn’t it? Let me briefly breakdown what I’ve put together with the players who are new additions. The gem here is Brad Richards. He’s played in Florida before across the state with Tampa Bay, but with Stamkos and Lecavalier, there’s no way they could afford him. Rumors have him potentially going to the New York Rangers or Toronto Maple Leafs. If Dale is going to throw $7 million a year at someone, this is the guy. Eric Cole and Ville Leino are two players that are gritty, hard working and can also score. Cole is a leader and is familiar with the Eastern Conference, and can possibly become your captain. Leino has shown during his time in Philadelphia and previously in Detroit that he has an edge about him that the Panthers are sorely missing. It helps that he can score. Tomas Kopecky has Stanley Cup experience and can play almost anywhere. He too has some grit, but needs to be more consistent in his play, and avoid some of his ill timed penalties. Michael Rupp is a big body who will stand up for his teammates, create some physical presence and can get a few goals. Not bad for a fourth liner. Actually a fourth line guy that can be trusted to play more than 4 minutes a game, which will be a nice luxury to have. With these additions on offence, the Panthers become tougher to play against right away. The ability to score now has also been upgraded, and a true number one center has been added.
On defence by adding Eric Brewer, the Panthers have a player that is immediate captain material, although Eric Cole as mentioned above could fill that role as well. Brewer isn’t going to score very much but again, a large body, and overall toughness is the attraction here. Erik Gudbranson last year’s first round pick (number 3 overall) should be on this team. Nothing left to prove in juniors. The sooner the Panthers sign him, the better I’ll feel about this.
Goaltending. A surprise I know. But with Tomas Vokoun’s agent indicating that Vokoun is going to test free agency, that worries me. The Panthers would like to sign Vokoun, but he’s never been a free agent before and this will be his first chance at big money. That said, the Panthers may have to place their attention elsewhere. Jose Theodore has about two or three good years left at least. He’s a bit smaller than most goaltenders, but he’s not going to cost more than $3 million at the most. This would afford the Panthers to spend money on Richards, and allow Jacob Markstrom to spend one more season in the AHL, and be ready to come up in 2012-2013.
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