It’s almost that time of year again. What time is it? It is time for the free agency buzz to begin. Free agency will begin on Sunday, July 1st. What is normally a day saved for rest, you better believe that all owners, general managers, coaches, and agents will be doing anything but resting. Free agency is one of the most exciting things a fan has to look forward to in the long grueling off season as their respective teams look to add players that can help their franchise win hockey games.
Last year the Florida Panthers had arguably the best off season out of any other team in the NHL, as they were able to obtain Brian Campbell in a trade on draft day and they also went onto trade for Kris Versteeg. It wasn’t just through the draft that the Panthers got better though. They had some of the best free agents sign here in hopes of earning a spot in the postseason. Players such as former first round pick by the Panthers Ed Jovanovski, starting goalie Jose Theodore, and mister consistent Tomas Fleischmann all decided to sign to sign up with Florida.
After it was all said and done, last year’s free agency was one of the best things in franchise history as the Panthers were able to call themselves something that they could never say before, “we are the division champions.” All of us hockey fans here in South Florida are hoping that GM Dale Tallon can have a repeat performance of last year’s off season and regular season.
With many teams being forced to part ways with great talent, I am going to list the top three free agent’s that the Panthers should be targeting and why they should be targeting them.
Number Three: Andrei Kostitsyn, Winger, Nashville Predators
Andrei Kostitsyn might not be the biggest name in this year’s free agent class and he certainly isn’t the best player, however Kostitsyn is one of those players that every franchise would love to have on their team, that’s why the Predators went out and traded for him at last year’s trade deadline. Although he doesn’t possess the best skills, he is still a player than can help out a team that is close, just like the Florida Panthers. I believe that the Panthers should definitely show interest in Kostitsyn. Last year was another solid year for him as he was able to score 16 goals while counting for 36 points. If the Panthers are able to obtain this unrestricted free agent for the right price, I think that it would tremendously help out our offense that seemed to disappear at different times last season. Last season Kostitsyn accounted for just over 3,000,000 million dollars to the cap room. If Florida can get him for around that same price or even just a little bit more, it could be huge to our offense as he not only brings a great offensive presence, but also a great form of leadership that can help this team mature not only on the ice, but off of it as well, while still at the young age of 26.
Number Two: P.A. Parenteau, Winger, New York Islanders
In his time in the NHL, Parenteau has been a bit of an up and down player. However, last year, things changed completely. After an unsuccessful start to his career with the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers, Parenteau seemed to have found his grove sort to say with the New York Islanders. After having an above average first year with the team, he took things to a whole other level last season, with a 16 point improvement total. He turned out to be one of the most dependable players on a really bad Islanders team last season. Parenteau will definitely receive a contract offer from New York this offseason, however, whether he will accept it or not remains to be seen. He isn’t the type of player that can light up another team with his goal scoring ability; however, he has been a true team player the past two seasons as he has helped his offense in other ways. He is great with the puck, and over the past couple of seasons he has accounted for a total of 82 assists. Parenteau is definitely in line for a pay raise, but the Islanders might not want to spend what they will need to in order to keep him on their roster. If the two sides fail to come to an agreement, I believe that it would be a smart move for the Panthers to pursue him. His style of play and is fantastic ability with the puck can definitely be the jumpstart this Panthers offense desperately needs and at the age of 29, he can be a big time player for Florida for years to come.
Number One: Jason Garrison, Defender, Florida Panthers
Yes, Jason Garrison made the list. It is without a question in anyone’s mind that Garrison has improved his game severely. What once started off as a questionable career has turned into one of the hottest free agent defenders on the market. Garrison has been labeled by a lot of people as the next Jay Bouwmeester, a defender who started to show promise with the Panthers, then moved on from the Panthers only to have seasons of struggle. I understand that Garrison just had one breakout year with the Panthers, that it could potentially be a huge risk to sign him to a long term deal. However, if you look what Garrison has done on the Panthers this previous season, you might have to take the risk because if you don’t, it could really come back to haunt us. Last season he not only led all Panther defenders in goals, but he also set a single season franchise record for most goals by a defender. He alone scored more goals than every other defender on the team combined. Not only has his offensive skill set improved, but his defense improved a lot. Over the past season Garrison has become one of the best two-way defenders in the league. Now he is an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team that he desires. While the Panthers have offered him a new contract, he has yet to accept it. The good thing is that the Panthers are the only team that can give him a contract before July 1st. It is essential that the Panthers make Garrison their number one priority going into this week, because once July 1st comes around, you better believe that the Garrison camp will be receiving tons of offers from teams who would love to have his services. Hopefully the two sides could get a deal done this week, as Garrison has become a huge part of this team’s success over the past two years.
Why not these guys?
Before you opened up this article you were probably expecting names such as Zach Parise, Alexander Semin, and Shane Doan to be the top three players. While those three are indeed great players, they will not be wearing a Panthers uniform next season. Although it would be nice to have Parise here in Florida, it is a long shot as he wishes to remain with the Devils for years to come. Alexander Semin is a nice player, however, his attitude is not something that this team needs to have, and Shane Doan will likely remain with Phoenix next season and at a contract expected to be over $5 million, the Panthers might not be willing to spend that much money on a player that is over 35 years of age.
So that’s that… My list of free agents that I believe the Florida Panthers should go after. Hopefully we can have another good offseason and continue to grow and get better as a team in order to reach the main goal…. Winning a championship!!!!
Thanks For Reading!
Tags: Alexander Semin Andrei Kostitsyn Brian Campbell Ed Jovanovski Florida Panthers Jason Garrison Jose Theodore Kris Versteeg Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils New York Islanders New York Rangers Nhl NHL Free Agency P.A. Parenteau Phoenix Coyotes Shane Doan Tomas Fleischmann Zach Parise