The Florida Pantehrs are expected to be one of the more active busy teams come free agency, which could mean that we might not see the majority of the team’s pending unrestricted free agents come back next season.
According to Cap Geek, the Panthers have six pending free agents forwards in their organization.
The most notable is Scott Gomez, the team’s most experienced forward last season. A veteran of 987-career games and 713-points, Gomez had to adapt to becoming the fourth, sometimes fifth center at times.
He did get the opportunity to play on the top line due to injuries and inconsistent play, but the fact is he is far from the player he once was. With the Panthers current depth at center it is hard to think of a scenario where he returns.
Krys Barch and Jesse Winchester are in interesting cases for the Panthers as they are the type of players Florida would like to keep but the number game might keep one or both from returning . I mentioned before the importance of keeping a strong, gritty fourth line together is important when building a team.
Look at what happened with the Pittsburgh Penguins this previous playoff series, they had no grit on the fourth line and when the going got rough – they couldn’t get rough in return.
So bringing back either Barch or Winchester would be a big step in keeping intact a strong fourth line. More than that they earned a chance to return and play on a NHL roster again.
Jon Matsumoto, Greg Rallo and Mike Mancari are the other three unrestricted free agents in the Panthers’ organization – all three depth options that aren’t likely to return. Florida should get a surge of young forward in the minor league system and that should push out some of the veterans.