Whether you like it or not, the offseason is here, Panthers fans. Last year’s offseason was very much looked forward to, as the Panthers were coming off the heels of another disappointing finish, and fans knew new faces would come in with so much cap room. From the end of that year to the end of this year, seventeen new players graced the ice of the BankAtlantic Center. The influx of players certainly paid off.
The sentiment within the franchise this offseason is a little different, though. GM Dale Tallon has a quality team, coaches, draft picks, and a pool of prospects already with the team, so many experts expect this offseason to be quiet as far as the Panthers are concerned. Focus will not be with the huge free agents but with the players already here. Namely Kris Versteeg and Jason Garrison.
Versteeg is a restricted free agent and Garrison is an unrestricted free agent going into this offseason, so the Panthers have a little room for negotiations for Mr. Versteeg. They don’t have that luxury with the G-52 bomber, however. Needless to say, many big-name teans will be looking to sign the guy, especially ones with power-play issues. In this case, Garrison and his agent are firmly in the driver’s seat.
That does give Panthers fans pause. Their team certainly isn’t known to outbid other teams to sign a free agent, and the possibility that negotiations have been struggling to advance might suggest that Tallon would be hard-pressed to get a deal done (contract talks started January 13, after all).
Garrison is coming out of a two-year, $1.35 million contract, which he woefully outperformed. Estimates say that Garrison will be looking for a multi-year deal with about $4-4.5 million per season. An impartial fan wonders if that sort of cap hit fits into the Blueprint.
As a hockey fan, though, I have to hope that Garrison sticks around. His booming slap shot and intelligent defense made him a fan and coach favorite. His impact on the team could be felt in the playoffs against the Devils. The two games he was absent, the Panthers didn’t score a single power play goal. In the rest of the series, the Panthers had nine. I think those stats are more than a coincidence.
Yesterday, Dale Tallon said in the end if the year press conference that signing both Garrison and Versteeg would be a “priority”. Hopefully, the Panthers can get these these done without busting the cap.
And now for a little housekeeping: We here at the Rat Trick will of course be all over every development this offseason regarding the Panthers, so stick around with us despie the lack of hockey!
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