When the Florida Panthers take the podium to make the first overall selection in the upcoming draft (of course assuming they keep the pick) they will do see selecting third overall or higher for the fourth time in the last five years. The only year they did not was 2012, when they took Mike Matheson 23rd overall.
If the Chicago Blackhawks, or better yet the Pittsburgh Penguins have showed us anything is that picking that high for that long will eventually pay dividends. In a four year span the Penguins drafted first or second overall – collecting Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal in the process.
All four played a very crucial role in the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 and Malkin and Crosby have signed contracts that will likely keep them in Pittsburgh for the rest of their careers.
In the last four first rounds, the Panthers have collected Aleksander Barkov, Matheson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson, Quinton Howden and Nick Bjugstad. Matheson has yet to break into the NHL, but is enjoying a successful college career.
Huberdeau won the Calder Trophy last season, Bjugstad and Howden broke out this past season, Gudbranson continues to ooze captain quality that should earn him the ‘C’ on his sweater starting very soon.
As for Barkov, the Panthers will be looking for him to have a Crosby like impact, and for the slight glimpses we got of Barkov – he looks to be heading in that direction. There is only one Crosby, but Barkov won’t be out of place in that next echelon of superstars trailing Sid. And it might be coming sooner that most believe.
But before any winning can be had by this extremely bright young core, there must be a cleansing of everything that isn’t needed. Dale Tallon pointed out in his end of year press conference that he was let down by the performances by some of his veterans.
He wasn’t the only one.
The Panthers must buyout their top veteran players, Tomas Fleischmann, Ed Jovanovski and Tomas Kopecky. If buying out a player isn’t an option then they must move them at all cost – even if they have to eat some of the salary in their contracts.
I could get into a long drawn out rant on why they each could, but one look at their numbers should be sufficient enough – if you’re reading this you have likely seen some Panthers’ games, so you have seen it for yourself.
Having the negative ‘vibe’ brought by the play of Joavanovski and Fleischmann will only continue to hamper the young guns potentially for more than this year. How many rallies were killed after Fleischmann couldn’t finish a play or ‘Jovo’ got beat bad by a forward?
With both compliance buyouts remaining, Jovanovski and Fleischmann seem like obvious choices and Kopecky only has next year left on his contract – a buyout wouldn’t be overly costly for a team with only four players under contract two years from now, and one after that.
The Panthers are in a great position as far as the future of their organization, but their ‘franchise’ goaltender is 35-years old, if they want to attempt to try and win now, they cannot do it with some of the current veterans.
Tallon seems committed to adding a new surge of veteran free agents this offseason, now is a perfect time to say good bye to the old.