The free agent signing period begins Friday, July 1. The Florida Panthers have approximately $22 million to spend just to reach the salary cap floor, which means the team will need to be active to reach that mark. Over the past few days we’ve been taking a look at players we hope might be on the Cats radar (and vice versa). In this installment, we’ll take a look Brad Richards and Jose Theodore.
Most likely the biggest name in this years free agency crop is Brad Richards who is currently property of the Dallas Stars. Richards is a player that would instantly fill a gaping hole on the Florida roster….a legitimate first line center. The last player who had that role was Olli Jokinen, who had a couple 90 point seasons as the Panthers leading scorer. Richards would add credibility to the Panthers and would certainly show not only the locals, but the NHL that Florida means business about being a true playoff contender. While Richards isn’t big (he’s only 6′) he plays big. Good with face offs, and a smooth skater with terrific hockey sense, Richards can score and he can pass, and is defensively responsible. In 72 games last season he compiled 77 points on 28 goals and 49 assists. He’s not overly physical and won’t be a guy that gets you a lot of hits, but that’s not his game.
But at what price, and would he continue to flourish? Getting Richards is going to cost somewhere between $7.5 million and maybe even $8 million per year. While the Panthers have $22 million to spend, is that realistic to do? If it were that would mean that two players (include Brian Campbell) would represent 30% of the Panther’s payroll floor. Seems a bit much, but we aren’t talking strapping the team with no salary cap flexibility, but we are talking strapping a team financially. The other question is what kind of people are surrounding him? The roster as it is today doesn’t give Brad too many players to pass the puck to for goal scoring. This signing is a long shot. I don’t rule it out, but I also don’t put too much stock into it. Getting him would be great, but getting him a quality supporting cast would be imperative. We’ll see how this turns.
Jose Theodore is coming off a pretty decent season as a back up in Minnesota after having a couple of very good years in Washington. The former Hart Trophy winner is 34 years old, but for some reason I keep thinking he’s younger. Somewhat small for an NHL goaltender these days at 5′-11″, 185 lbs. , I’m looking at Jose in the event the Panthers are unable to sign Tomas Vokoun. Should Vokoun not stay, Florida is going to need a solid number one netminder, a player that can play at minimum 50 to 55 games per year. Theodore can be that guy. He’s won 260 games in his career where he’s had some successful stops, including his start in Montreal, and throughout his journey in the NHL which has taken him to Colorado, Washington and Minnesota.
The price for Jose could be in the $3 million dollar per year range and I wouldn’t be opposed to a two or even three year deal for him. He’s familiar with the Eastern Conference which is a plus, and is experienced enough to be a voice in the dressing room and on the ice. It’s an affordable alternative and allows the Panthers to spend more money acquiring offence, which they sorely need.
If both or either of these players end up on the roster it will mean good things. I’m concerned about both positions that these players play. Everything starts with being good from the net out and up the middle. Whether it’s Vokoun or Theodore makes a difference in how the rest of the roster shakes out. We have less that 24 hours to see what happens first.
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