The free agent signing period begins Friday, July 1. The Florida Panthers have approximately $24 million to spend just to reach the salary cap floor, which means the team will need to be active to reach that mark. So over the next few days, we’ll be taking a look at some of the free agents that we hope might be on the Cats radar (and vice versa). In this installment, we’ll take a look at Andrew Brunette and Erik Cole.
2010-2011 team: Minnesota Wild
2010-2011 cap hit (per capgeek): $2.3 million
2010-2011 stats: 18 G, 28 A, 46 PTS -7 rating, 8 PPG
It’s perfect logic to think that Dale Tallon is going to be going after forwards hard. At age 37, Brunette’s numbers took a slight dip from his usual output but he’s been a consistent performer throughout his career. As consistent as his output has been, his durability has been even more impressive. He’s played at least 80 games the past nine seasons, something that should catch the eye of a team who has recent history of losing guys to injuries. He’s been an alternate captain in Minnesota so he also brings a certain measure of leadership, which is prized by every club. Haven’t heard his name mentioned too much about where he might end up. Wouldn’t be a surprise if he actually stayed in Minnesota to finish out his career. But he might be a nice option for a team in need of some scoring, someone to play on a second power play unit and veteran leadership.
2010-2011 team: Carolina Hurricanes
2010-2011 cap hit: $2.9 million
2010-2011 stats: 26 G, 26 A, 52 PTS, -1 rating, 3 PPG
After a sub-par 2009-2010 thanks to injury. Erik Cole returned to form with his 26 goal season, good for third on the team behind All-Stars Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. At 32, he still is one of the fastest skaters in the league, which is impressive given his age and his 6-2, 205 lb build. It might be an uphill climb to lure him out of Carolina as he’s spent all but 63 of his 620 games played as a Cane. But, if he could be lured, imagine the speed of a Cole, Mike Santorelli, David Booth line. I don’t know how much backchecking that line would do, but it would certainly be pretty formidable on offense. Cole also addresses a weak spot on the team, right wing, where Evgeny Dadonov and Jack Skille are the top returnees. With the small, underwhelming free agent crop, the Panthers might have to overpay, but he adds an instant upgrade at RW and also brings Stanley Cup winning experience.
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