The summer frenzy known as NHL Free Agency begins on Sunday, and while the Florida Panthers were the most active team in the NHL last year, I wouldn’t expect the same chaos (but it was good chaos) this year. With the NHL and NHLPA agreeing on the salary cap for this coming season at $70.2 million, with a floor of about $54 million, the Panthers will have some room to make some additions. With 16 players under contract the Cats have $29.5 million to spend, and this is of course before we know what’s going to happen with Jason Garrison and Kris Versteeg. Garrison has been made an offer, but it appears that he’ll want to test the open market as he’s a free agent. Kris Versteeg has also been offered a contract, and if it’s not signed, he’ll become a free agent. Currently Versteeg is restricted, meaning that the Panthers needed to offer the colorful winger at least what he made last season ($3.0 million).
While everyone in town would like to see the Panthers sign either forward Zach Parise, or defenceman Ryan Suter, I have a feeling that we must realistically set our sights a little lower. It would be nice if the Panthers could deliver a dump truck full of money to either player, but I have a feeling that the asking price is going to be very high for both, and both players will be receiving offers from a number of contending teams, which could price the Panthers out of contention.
After these two the list becomes very short in my opinion. Loaded with aging forwards, this years crop of unrestricted free agents isn’t exactly the best. My feeling is that above all else the Panthers need to look for offence, something I’ve been saying since a recent Hall of Fame inductee left town. After you get past the problem children of Alexander Semin, and Andrei Kostitysn, what is there to choose from?
As I looked down the list I was mortified. I looked at it again and I began to scratch my head. Who could the Panthers possibly go after that could make an impact on the team? It was revealed earlier today that former Panther center Olli Jokinen will not be resigned by the Calgary Flames. Could Dale Tallon consider Jokinen as a possibility? You have to at least give it some thought. Although his best days are behind him, Olli was certainly a player that was able to put up some very good numbers, while not having much talent around him.
After we get past the aging veterans, some that would entice former general manager Jacques Martin, we aren’t left with too much. Paul Gaustad a rugged center who finished last season with the Nashville Predators? Jiri Hudler a decent two way left wing from the Detroit Red Wings? The aforementioned Kostitysn? Steven Reinprecht is a free agent again. Kidding. Taylor Pyatt from the Phoenix Coyotes? Tom Kostopoulos, a solid role player, who played last season for the Calgary Flames? Take a chance on Dustin Penner and see if he’s an enigma, or if he can really shine? The diamond in the rough in all this could be P. A. Parenteau from the New York Islanders. A energetic and talented right wing, he could be one of the most sought after players. Coming off a 67 point season that included 18 goals, you wonder if he took more shots, would he be able to put up more points. I haven’t watched him that closely to know, but you must consider him as an option.
On defence besides Suter, there’s a boatload of journeymen and aging blue liners. Marginal for the most part, none of them really stick out as a must sign. Milan Jurcina who has a horrible plus/minus and Chris Campoli will always have one highlight play in my mind that I see over and over again that occured in the 2010 playoffs. (I’ve decided not to include that video as I’ve cried enough). So I don’t see anyone that overly excites me.
As for goaltending, I’m not discussing this as the duo of Jose Theodore, and hopefully Scott Clemmensen returns for another season. Clemmer needs to be resigned, and hopefully the two sides can agree. Of course that whole situation can can another turn if a certain trade is made to a certain team in the Pacific Northwest.
The fun begins on Sunday. The dollars will be flying around, and it will be intersting to see what happens not only here in South Florida, but in other cities as well. Despite the fact that a new collective bargaining agreement hasn’t been signed, I don’t expect too many of the cash rich teams to be shy about spending.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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