With the Florida Panthers season over, I have to say that this last month has been a long month watching hockey thinking what if? To think, the New Jersey Devils were one goal away from being eliminated and the Panthers moving on, but that did not happen, and now we see the Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals. One has to think, that could have been us. But thats sports for you, crazy things happen every night. So, with the first month done with and the NHL season almost over, teams all across the league have to start prepping on what they want to do this offseason. Players across the league are also getting back to working out and getting ready for the upcoming season. With that being said, I decided to list a handful of things the Panthers should do if they want to take the next step and go further into in the postseason.
With the Panthers finally making it to the playoffs in a decade, teams across the league are going to start taking us seriously now. With that said, lets begin.
1. The Panthers need to sign some of their key free agents this offseason, particularly Kris Versteeg, Jason Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov. We all saw what Versteeg was able to do when healthy and while being able to play on the most important roles, including the power play. Hopefully we can lock Versteeg to contract similar to Flashes contract and have a solid trio of Weiss, Versteeg and Flash for another handful of years. Signing Garrison for me is up and down. There is the up where he can show us with that powerful blast from the point that quite often found the net. His season last year was by far the biggest improvement any Panther player made and it would be awesome if he can repeat the amazing season he had. But then there is the down where we saw him fail to score more than 4 goals in a season for two years prior to this one. Yes, he is a very good defensive player as well but Garrison is going to be asking for a high price and if he can’t repeat what he did last season, it wouldn’t be good with me. Kulikov is another player I believe the Panthers need to lock up long term. A very solid offensive defenseman who blossomed early on in the season on the PP. He had a career high of 28 points in only 58 games. Imagine what he would have been able to do had he not been injured for a good 3 months. At the age of 22, Kulikov has a very bright future, and hopefully it will be here in South Florida.
Other possible signees would have to be Mikael Samuelsson, although he is 36 years old he proved to be a very valuable piece down the stretch. I would certainly love if the Panthers can sign him for a year or two.
2. The Panthers in my opinion need to get Jacob Markstrom into the NHL next season. It has been 4 years since the Panthers drafted Markstrom in the 2nd round, and I believe his time is coming soon. Markstrom is a guy I see being with the Panthers past 2020. He has that ability to steal games and his big body covers nearly the entire net. We saw a glimpse of what he was capable of early in the season against Montreal, in Montreal. Markstrom needs to be on the roster all season next season backing up Jose Theodore. He needs to play at least 20-30 games, and really cement himself as the starter for the 2013-2014 season. To me, Markstrom is the key to the Panthers ultimately having Stanley Cup success in the future. We have seen this postseason just how important it is to have solid goaltending, all four of the final four teams that remained in the postseason, were kept alive all season long by their goaltending. Markstrom has to be a priority next season, even if that means letting go of an outstanding goaltender and an even better pro, Scott Clemmensen.
3. Jonathan Huberdeau has to be the real deal if we want to make that jump. I know it’s a big load to carry for a rookie, but Huberdeau has to have that “wow” factor that players like Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux and Evgeni Malkin have. I’m not saying that during his rookie season he has to be a superstar, but he has to make the team better. We saw during the preseason that ability, as he led the team in goals throughout the preseason. There is no question Huberdeau has the ability to be a superstar in this league and if the Panthers want to make that jump, Huberdeau needs to have that ‘wow” factor.
4. The Panthers are going to have to get lucky in signing a couple of players during the offseason as well. I’m not saying we go on a shopping spree like what he did last season, because we can’t. But I would like to see maybe one or two decent signings. Shea Weber leads the pack among free agents this year. I know it’s a long shot, but you never know. Certainly, if Weber were to come to Florida, he would demand big money, but would solidify that defensive core even more. Zach Parise would be another interesting player to look at, but from what he was making last season, he might be out of the budget. Ryan Suter could be another guy, although he has said that he would like to return to Nashville. Either way, it would be nice to see a player come to Florida and really help the team out, but only time will tell.
Hopefully you guys agree with what I said, and If you believe there are any other things the Panthers need to do, feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Thank you for reading.
Make sure to like is on Facebook as well. Remember to also follow the entire Rat Trick team on Twitter! Me @davidbub_2 . Frank Rekas @therattrick. David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @Peejlewiz, Adam Reid @AdamReid_ and Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger .