On October 22, 2011, the Florida Panthers traded winger David Booth to the Vancouver Canucks. Booth was a fan favorite, whose name resonated throughout the BankAtlantic Center in a long drawn out form, whenever he took possession of the puck. This chorus confused fans of opposing teams, who wondered why Panthers fans were booing their own player. The trade would consist of four players, and one draft pick. Florida sent Booth, Steven Reinprecht, and a 3rd round pick in 2013 to Vancouver; receiving Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm in return.
Mikael Samuelsson was selected in the 5th Round, 145th overall by the San Jose Sharks, at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, New York. The Swedish right-winger appeared in only 4 games with the Sharks, he played the next two seasons with the New York Rangers. An 8 player trade moved him to Pittsburgh for the final 22 games of the 02-03′ season. Following that season, the Penguins desired to pick higher in the 2003 Entry Draft, and no team was picking higher than the Florida Panthers. The Penguins dealt Mikael Samuelsson and the third overall pick (Nathan Horton) and 55th overall (Stefan Meyer) to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Florida’s first overall pick and 73rd pick; with which the Penguins chose Marc-Andre Fleury and Daniel Carcillo respectively.
Mikael Samuelsson’s first stint in South Florida was cut short by two severe injuries. A broken jaw, which kept him out of the lineup between November 22 and January 11; and a broken hand, which occurred just days later on January 23, 2004. Samuelsson became a free agent after he did not receive a qualifying offer from the Panthers. After the lockout, Samuelsson was approached by the Detroit Red Wings. Prior to joining the Red Wings, Samuelsson was often utilized in defensive situations. The Red Wings gave him powerplay time, and soon after found themselves with 20+ goalscorer on their third line. This culminated when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008.
When Mikael Samuelsson returned to Florida, he brought with him everything he had gained since he had parted with this organization; including a Stanley Cup ring. He, as many of the players who became Panthers on July 1st, quickly understood what Dale Tallon was doing. Unfortunately, this season would come to mirror his first season as a Panther, with injuries again becoming the major factor. Having underwent sports hernia surgery in the offseason, Samuelsson went on injured reserve with a groin injury on November 3rd; 12 days following the trade. He would not make his debut with the Panthers until December 8th.
When he returned from injury, it took him some time to get back in full stride. However he would battle a concussion, a back injury, and a lower body injury throughout the rest of the campaign. The Panthers struggled through January, but as the team started to play well again, so did Samuelsson. Eventually, he found himself playing the point on the powerplay. He averaged 15:57 of ice time over 48 games that he played as a Panther this season. He had 28 points, (13 G, 15 A) with 6 goals being on the powerplay and one game winning goal. Samuelsson had 14 penalty minutes and finished the season with a +/- rating of 2. He took 138 shots in those 48 games, 10.4% of which found the back of the net.
Arguably Samuelsson’s best game was his 3 point effort (1 G, 2 A) in the division clinching victory over Carolina on April 7th. He would ride this energy into the first round series against the Devils, where he recorded 5 assists, 2 penalty minutes, and was a -1 in those seven games.
Mikael Samuelsson is an unrestricted free agent, a veteran presence who would be good to keep around. At 6′ 2″ 218 pounds, Samuelsson fits with what Dale Tallon has been looking for in his forwards. However, dollar amounts and contract lengths are going to decide the fate of several players in the offseason. Samuelsson played just over a half of a season intermittently, but he preformed when he needed to, including 5 assists in the 7 playoff games.
Final Grade: B
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